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Last updated:

April 21, 2022

Duration:

Unlimited Duration

FREE

This course includes:

Unlimited Duration

Badge on Completion

Certificate of completion

Unlimited Duration

Description

Gain an understanding of the natural world and how the web of life works, with illustrations from around the world.

This course is designed to be studied for about 2 hours per week over 6 weeks. As there is no start and end date you can study in your own time and your own pace.

Throughout this free non-accredited course you will be considering the following overarching questions:

  • What is the importance of understanding ecosystems?
  • How do they work?
  • How crucial is their conservation?

If we don't grasp why ecosystems function, it becomes harder to determine possible reasons for when they don't, and makes it difficult to identify possible environmental threats to humans. In this course you will discover how organisms are linked together by complex interrelationships, how such links are studied and how the physical properties of a particular habitat interact with the organisms that inhabit it. Using case studies, you will come to learn how knowledge of ecosystems leads to understanding of their individual importance, and how they can be preserved.

This course is intended for those with an interest in natural history, conservation or the environment and does not require any previous experience of studying these subjects.

This OpenLearn science course is produced with the kind support of Dangoor Education, the educational arm of The Exilarch's Foundation.

Course learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • Define an ecosystem
  • Understand the different ways in which a system can be analysed
  • Use your knowledge of the key features of ecosystems to determine interrelationships between organisms in a simple ecosystem
  • Describe adaptations shown by animals to extreme desert and polar environments
  • Discuss how small organisms in marine systems contribute to energy flow through ecosystems
  • Explain how humans impact on three examples of fragile ecosystems.

Course Curriculum

    • Introduction 00:15:00
    • Define an ecosystem 00:10:00
    • Investigating ecosystems 00:10:00
    • The rockpool 00:20:00
    • Study a habitat 00:10:00
    • The wetlands of Wicken Fen 00:15:00
    • Following the food web in Wicken Fen 00:15:00
    • Managing habitats in Wicken Fen 00:15:00
    • Summary of Week 1 00:15:00
    • Introduction 00:15:00
    • The carbon cycle 00:20:00
    • Exploring oak woodland 00:10:00
    • Following a food chain 00:10:00
    • Fungi and the woodwide web 00:15:00
    • Unearthing the woodwide web 00:10:00
    • Mutual benefits and competition 00:15:00
    • Life in trees 00:15:00
    • The colugo 00:20:00
    • Flying squirrels 00:10:00
    • Flying foxes 00:25:00
    • Summary of Week 2 00:15:00
    • Introduction 00:10:00
    • Deserts 00:15:00
    • On size and shape 00:15:00
    • Behavioural strategies of evaders 00:15:00
    • Desert reptiles 00:30:00
    • Desert burrows 00:20:00
    • Burrowers 00:25:00
    • Behavioural strategies of evaporators 00:25:00
    • Behavioural strategies of endurers 00:20:00
    • Camels and humans as desert dwellers 00:10:00
    • Cold environments 00:20:00
    • Life on land at high latitudes 00:15:00
    • Life in the polar seas 00:25:00
    • Apply your knowledge of ecosystems 00:15:00
    • Review of Weeks 1 to 3 00:20:00
    • Introduction 00:20:00
    • Seas, ecosystems and small organisms 00:10:00
    • Investigating small organisms 00:25:00
    • Investigating flagellates 00:10:00
    • Filtering food from the ocean 00:15:00
    • Analysing ecosystems – a summary 00:15:00
    • Identifying organisms 00:25:00
    • Summary of Week 4 00:10:00
    • Introduction 00:15:00
    • Managing or meddling 00:15:00
    • Managing an ecosystem – the art of coppicing 00:10:00
    • The survival of Wicken Fen 00:15:00
    • Conserving a rare species 00:20:00
    • Human influences on ecosystems 00:15:00
    • Introduction 00:05:00
    • Gorillas and tourism 00:30:00
    • China’s Loess Plateau 00:30:00
    • Galápagos 00:15:00
    • Darwin’s arrival on the Galápagos Islands 00:15:00
    • Darwin’s thoughts on the iguanas 00:10:00
    • Invasive alien species 00:15:00
    • How do invasive alien species reach the Galápagos islands 00:15:00
    • Galápagos research and human effects 00:15:00
    • A fragile ecosystem 00:15:00
    • Conclusion 00:15:00
    • Beyond ecosystems 00:15:00

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