This course is part of the Environmental Challenges program, which will enable you to explore how people and nature interact and earn 10 credits from the University of Leeds.
Complex patterns in ecology are not always causal and predictable. Populations have their own dynamics that can be independent of external environmental conditions. In this course we look at the way that natural systems are organised; although living systems are complex, there are also some fairly constant patterns and relationships.
This course explores three approaches to the causality and dynamics of environmental systems, and how humans are involved and affected by these systems worldwide. It also includes an introduction to correlation and the limitations of statistical testing.
What topics will you cover?
- Understand the concept of causal relationships and how climate can determine vegetation type.
- Appreciate the difference between the climax concept of vegetation succession and the individualistic concept.
- Recognise that biodiversity is not distributed evenly over the Earth, but is clustered into centres of diversity.
- Understand that many individual interactions can lead to apparently chaotic fluctuations.
- Gain an awareness of the 1/f power function and how it can be used to transform apparently random fluctuations into a straight line.
- Introduction to the classic Nicholson’s blowfly experiment that demonstrates density-dependent population dynamics.
- Understand that climate-driven events in human history, such as those of the Greenland Vikings and Mexican Mayans, were significantly influenced by social factors.
- Recognise that there are established physical relationships in nature such as allometric scaling.
- Gain an awareness of relationships between wealth and human social structures including the Pareto wealth distribution and environmental Kuznets curve, and the problems associated with their validity.
- Understand the difference between ecocentric and anthropocentric positions.
- Appreciate the arguments for legal rights for non-human species.
- Gain an awareness of the practical aspects of converting natural complexity into decision making in natural resource management.
What will you achieve?
- Explore the question of causality as it applies to vegetation and climate.
- Discuss density-dependent population dynamics, where many individual interactions can lead to apparently chaotic fluctuations.
- Explain mathematical rules in nature and human social systems.
- Develop a mathematical understanding of correlation and the limitations of statistical testing.
Who is the course for?
The course is suitable for anyone with a general interest in nature and environmental decision-making; no previous knowledge or experience is required.
If you are working in environmental management, or wish to learn more about it, this course is designed to support you as a professional. By completing all aspects of the course you will have achieved 14 hours of CPD time.
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