General Ecology

Type of instruction




Part of degree program


Recommended in

Semester 1

Typically offered in

Autumn semester

Course description
  1. Major patterns of Biodiversity. Elements of biodiversity. Human population dynamics and biodiversity. Biodiversity through time. Recent and future extinctions. Gradients of biodiversity. Local and regional patterns. Does biodiversity matter? Maintaining biodiversity.

  2. Geosphere-biosphere interactions: fluxes of energy and matter in ecosystems Primary and secondary productions. Distribution of primary production (PP) globally. Factors influencing the amounts of PP and secondary productions. The way and use of energy in food webs and communities. Biogeochemistry. Sources and flux of matter and ways of investigating. Cycles of matter, and specifically those of phorphorus, nitrogen, sulphur and carbon. Perturbation of the natural fluxes by human activities.

  3. Historical biogeography Dispersal and Centers of Origin from Darwin to Simposon. Dispersal as the main cause of overlapping distributional patterns. The place of Centers of Origin idea in historical biogeography. Biotic dispersal, CO (centers of origin) versus AC (Ausbreitungscentern: propagation areas). Critics of dispersalists’ point of view. Croizat, nelson and others. Vicariance biogeography, component analysis, reduced area-cladogram methods. Phylogenetic and cladistic approaches of historical biogeography. Progression rule, BPA (Brooks Parsimony Analisys). Panbiogeography, distributional base-line and minimum spanning tree. Old questions modern answers: Phylogeography. Glacial refuges, postglacial dispersal routes. The Pannon biogeographical region. Its fauna genesis and faunal components.

  4. Biodiversity Species richness and biodiversity - concepts and approaches. Estimations on the number of species on Earth. Species-area relations. The relationship between local and regional diversities. Geographic trends in species richess. Biodiversity hotspots. Monitoring in Europe and Hungary. Assessment of biodiversity.

  5. The species composition of communities Texture, co-texture and structure of communities. Rank-abundance relations. Rarity. Measures of diversity. Species combinations.

  6. Spatial structure of communities Zones, patches, layers. Emergence of spatial patterns. Conseqences of spatial patterns. Stability of species assemblages. Classification of communities. Boundaries in the vegetation.

  7. Dynamics of communities Primary and secondary succession. Transitions on fine spatial scales. Patch dynamics. The importance of disturbance in the dynamics of communities. Secular succession and vegetation history.

  8. Food webs and their regulations Types and pecularities of food webs (trophodynamic, descriptive and interactive). Factors affecting the number of food web levels. Conceptual problems of the classic food web theory. The notion of regulation. Top-down and bottom-up regulations. Differences in terrestrial and aquatic food webs.

  9. Guilds Guild and functional group. The use and abuse of the concept of the Rootian guild. A priori and a posteriori guild determination. The ecological significance of guild: competition, community functions and the guild as a building block of community. Adaptive syndromes and convergent evolution. Spatial guild patterns: species ratios. Delineation of guilds: objective methods of guild determination. Assembly rules for guilds: Fox-assemblies. Examples: desert rodent guilds, pre-dispersal insect seed predator guilds. Null-models, C-score and EcoSim.

  10. Limnology. Freshwater foodwebs. Contribution of animals in the freshwater nutrient cycling. Pelagic and benthic microfauna of lakes and running waters. The microbial loop. Foodweb interactions of microbial organisms and aquatic animals.

  11. Marine ecology. Biodiversity of marine habitats. Physiological and behavioural adaptations. Feeding mechanisms. Vertical distribution of marine organisms. Importance of special marine habitats. Basic processes influencing organization of marine communities.

  12. Ecosystem functions and biodiversity For ecosystem functioning (biogeochemical cycles, energy flow, etc.) system components (e.g. producers, consumers, decomposers) should be biologically diverse. Possible mechanisms: niche complementarity, facilitation through more efficient interspecific interactions. Functional types: their qualitatively different contribution to ecosystem functioning. The diversity – productivity relationship in various ecosystems.

  13. Ecosystem services The benefits of ecosystem functionings for humankind. Provisioning (e.g. food and medicine sources, raw materials for industry) and maintaining services (e.g. atmospheric O2 production, clear drinking water, erosion prevention, dampening climatic extremes, e.t.c.). The role of biological diversity in ecosystem services. Valuing ecosystem services, the fundamentals of ecological economics. Major statements of the Milleneum Ecosystem Assessement Synthesis Report (2005).

  14. Links between behaviour ecology and conservation biology In situ és ex situ protection and behaviour ecology. The Role of individual identification in conservation biology A minimum intervention approach. Animal reproductive systems in conservation and management (fishes, birds, mammals). Hunter selectivity and wildlife conservation. The importance of mate choice in improving viability. Genetic diversity of population and conservation management. On balancing science and decision makers.



  • Begon M, Townsend CR, Harper JL 2005:. Ecology: From individuals to ecosystems. 4th ed., Blackwell Science, Oxford. 1128. pp.


  • Gaston KJ és Spicer JI 1998: Biodiversity. Blackwell Science, Oxford, 113. pp.
  • Morin PJ 1999: Community Ecology. Blackwell Science, Oxford, 424. pp.
  • Rohde K 2006: Nonequilibrium Ecology. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 272. pp.
  • Wetzel RG 2009: Limnology: Lake and River Ecosystems. Academic Press, San Diego 1006. pp.