BIO3018F - Ecology & Evolution
36 credits at NQF level 7
Ecological and evolutionary processes together determine patterns of biodiversity. This African-centric ecology and evolution course utilises regional examples within the global context to illustrate plant and animal ecology and evolution. The course starts with community assembly and the mechanisms (e.g. functional traits) that contribute to species coexistence (e.g. niche construction) and turnover (competition/facilitation for resources) between communities and the results of this (e.g. succession and alternate states). The role of disturbance (e.g. fire, herbivory, predation) in structuring communities and the roles of adaptation versus exaptation are then considered. Alien invasions are considered in the context of the supposed “empty niche” and as current examples of dispersalism and mechanisms (e.g. traits) of coexistence and competition. This is followed by behavioural ecology, focusing on how competition and cooperation between and within species affects evolutionary fitness. This leads into analytical biogeography, considering the distribution of species and how this was established (i.e. vicariance versus dispersalism) before discussing the evolution and coexistence of species regionally and globally. The course is based on a two-week field-trip before the semester starts, with assignment hand-ins and tutorials during the semester.