Biological Diversity (Theories, Measures and Data sampling techniques)

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The course presents an overview of the theory behind biological diversity evolution and dynamics and of methods for diversity calculation and estimation. We will become familiar with the major alpha, beta, and gamma diversity estimation techniques.

Understanding how biodiversity evolved and is evolving on Earth and how to correctly use and interpret biodiversity data is important for all students interested in conservation biology and ecology, whether they pursue careers in academia or as policy makers and other professionals (students graduating from our programs do both). Academics need to be able to use the theories and indices correctly, whereas policy makers must be able to understand and interpret the conclusions offered by the academics.

The course has the following expectations and results:

- covering the theoretical and practical issues involved in biodiversity theory,
- conducting surveys and inventories of biodiversity,
- analyzing the information gathered,
- and applying their analysis to ecological and conservation problems.

Needed Learner Background:

- basics of Ecology and Calculus
- good understanding of English


Welcome to the course "Biological Diversity (Theories, Measures and Data sampling techniques)"
-This module represents the course content and its author as well as contains the additional materials to the course

Biodiversity and evolution
-In this module we will explore the evolution of biodiversity. In particular we will understand what is the web of life and how species interact to coexist.Moreover, we will understand the main processes that allow the evolution of biodiversity and how it is structured and structures itself. Finally, we will review the distribution patterns of biodiversity in macroscale.

Importance of biodiversity and anthropogenic impacts
-After having analysed the distribution of biodiversity in macroscale in the previous module we will see it in microscale.
Then I will explain you the importance of biodiversity: first we will see what are the effect of anthropogenic impacts, and second we will see why biodiversity is important for us. We will try to answer the important question about what are the causes of biodiversity decline and we will analyse the effect of climate change on species diversity, ecosystems and the whole planet. With a global perspective we will explore the implication for biodiversity of the Gaia theory.

Analyse and measure biodiversity
-In this module we will move from a theoretical discussion to a more practical point of view and we will see hot to analyse and measure biodiversity. I will show you some sampling techniques and how to avoid the most common sampling errors. We will talk about the relevant problem of pseudoreplication.
Then I will show you some metrics to estimate α and β –diversity and how to use them in particular cases and specific situations.

Species-abundance distributions and comparisons
-In this module we will talk about the most common species-abundance distribution models and I will show you how to compare different communities and samples in order to achieve a quantitative and statistical measure of the changes in biological diversity due to treatments.
I will explain some Evenness measures and how to represent them in form of curves of biodiversity. This will help to discriminate communities’ diversity and to better analyse the anthropogenic impacts on biodiversity.

Alternative measures of biodiversity
-In this module I will show you some of the most useful alternative measures of biodiversity. We will explore the meaning of functional and taxonomic (phylogenetic) diversity and I will explain you how to use these metrics for a more complete understanding of the patterns governing communities’ diversity. Then I will provide you some sketches about qualitative measures of biodiversity.

Statistics applied to the analysis of biodiversity
-The last module (n° 6) of this course will be dedicated to statistics applied to the analysis of biodiversity. We will see how to apply the information gathered in the previous modules to obtain a statistical significance. We will explore parametric and non-parametric tests, the useful chi-square test, the correct application of correlation and the regression analysis, and some hints about the multivariate analysis techniques, such as ANOVA.