Introduction to Ecosystems

FutureLearn Introduction to Ecosystems

The Open University
3 hours/week
6 weeks
Paid Certificate Available
Course Link
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.

All Open University science courses presented on FutureLearn are produced with the kind support of Dangoor Education.

Find out more in David Robinson’s post for the FutureLearn blog: “Why learn about ecosystems?

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.

What topics will you cover?
  • Introduction to the concept of an ecosystem and the problems of scoping a useable definition. Applying the definition to an example of a small ecosystem.
  • Following a food chain that links a group of organisms. Exploring those links in specific examples and what these reveal. Studying examples of adaptations to particular habitats and extreme conditions, displayed by animals and plants.
  • Investigating the diversity of life within different ecosystems and the small organisms that form the base of food chains.
  • Undertaking a small project on observing and identifying organisms in a neighbourhood ecosystem and contributing to an online community.
  • Using case studies, exploring the impact that humans can have on ecosystems and whether damaging impacts can be reversed. Examples of conservation and the problem of habitat restoration, illustrated by the conservation efforts to maintain a spider population.
  • Conserving lowland gorillas, China’s Loess Plateau and the Galápagos world heritage site.
  • How the problems of the Galápagos illustrate how fragile ecosystems can become and how important it is to understand such systems if we are to maintain them in balance.

Taught by
David Robinson
First release
Last update
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