Thursday, March 08, 2007


Hi All UWC students doing this course.

As promised, here are the Ten Topics for preparation of your PowerPoint Presentation.

General Instructions

You must use the prescribed template and ensure the PowerPoint Presentation is correctly formatted with respect to colour, fonts, and animation. The template is downloadable from the following site and contains instructions within the presentation itself. You will be expected to add sound to your presentation – I will show you how to do this in class. You can find the template here.

There is a variety of reasons for using a template. These are: learning to use all of PowerPoint's functionality; learning to follow instructions (very important when preparing a manuscript for submission to a scientific journal); and, finally, so the assessors can judge your content more fairly in relation to your classmates. This final point removes some of the subjectivity of marking a Power Point Presentation and allows the quality of the work to be assessed rather than the attractiveness of the presentation. A final consideration is that, if we like your material, we will present it to future students – so it fits with the rest of the look and feel of the course material. In this way we can instruct by example through peer to peer interaction. It is important that you add notes for each slide and keep each slide uncluttered. Avoid fancy annotations which are slow to load. The text should be annotated using blinds and images should dissolve in. Text should fade when the next text comes in. and still to bringing in and fading of the text,

How do I book a topic?

We have already decided on topics in class, but please confirm your selection by attaching a comment to this posting with your name and the selected topic. Once one person books a topic, that topic is no longer available for booking. In this way we ensure each person’s work contributes uniquely to the course. It is a “first come first serve” policy – so if you are quick you will get more choice. It also ensures that everyone gets their Blogger accounts up early in the course. Since some topics are likely to be more difficult than others, we do give extra marks if we think the topic is one that required more effort to research. Before completing the PowerPoint you will need to get the abstract checked for comments by posting on this Blog.

Where do I get references?

You will need to go through some of the references provided in the bibliography of the online lectures. I have uploaded some reference material in the following folder found here

Otherwise you will need to use our Library’s online journals and the Internet. Some of your references (at least three) must be peer-reviewed journal articles or fully referred Scientific Reports. Wikipedia articles do not count, although there is some review in their preparation. In line with the practice at most higher education institutions we discourage use of general Internet and Encyclopedia references. Such references are not adequately reviewed and therefore not sufficiently scientifically rigourous.

How will I be assessed?

You can download the rubric for assessment from here

At least two people will assess your presentation.

List of Topics discussed in Class

1) Global Biodiversity Hotspots
Describe the development of the concept of a biodiversity hotspot, its expansion from the original regions, reasons why hotspots are located mostly in tropical areas, distribution of rare species in global hotspots, threats to hotspots and approaches to their conservation.

2) Global Ecoregion Analysis
Undertake an analysis of the “Eco-regions” concept as a tool for analysis and assessment of biodiversity and its management. Which Eco-regions are most at risk for loss of biodiversity? In this presentation you will need to undertake an analytical approach and provide some generalizations for assessment of the biodiversity on our planet.

3) Quantifying Biodiversity
Estimates of how much biodiversity there is range considerably. There is also considerable debate about the calculation of such estimates. Discuss the various methods that have been used to estimate both global and local biodiversity, the limitations of the data derived from these approaches, and which places in the world we can more reliably gauge the amount of biodiversity (and why?). Discuss how corrections and different techniques might be applied to improve the accuracy of biodiversity estimates. Also discuss how this might influence our estimates of the extent of the loss we are currently experiencing in biodiversity.

4) Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
Ecosystem services are defined as processes that operate in the natural environment to produces resources that are useful to society (economically and culturally). Examples of ecosytem services include: supplying society with clean water and air; control and mitigation of flooding; maintaining pollination services for agriculture; control/mitigation of pests and diseases; and carbon sequestration. The aesthetic, cultural and ethical values of biodiversity are also considered part of ecosystem services. This has led to the realization that ecosystems provide economic benefits that promote development and therefore are described as “natural capital”. Your presentation should define what ecosystem services are and why in terms of economic markets they are considered to be “externalities” that are not considered. Consequently economic profit is often at the expense of maintaining ecosystem services, leading to unsustainable development and biodiversity loss. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005 reported that 60% of ecosystem services are being used unsustainably with inevitable degradation. These documents would be a good starting point for researching this topic.

5) Biodiversity and Meta-populations
A meta-population is defined as geographically isolated populations of the same species that are still able to interact at some level. Richard Levins in 1969 defined the term meta-population when modelling population dynamics of agricultural insect pests. Meta-population concept has been applied to species in both naturally and artificially fragmented landscapes. A meta-population usually consists of distinct populations within a matrix of suitable habitats that are unoccupied. The natural population cycles in each meta-population are relatively independent and will usually become extinct due to fluctuations of absolute population size, fecundity, and environmental conditions. Meta-populations have finite life-spans, and the population is most often stable since immigrants from another population will balance emigration and other individual losses. Immigration into a small/declining may often rescue the entire meta-population from extinction. Meta-population theory together with source-sink dynamics emphasize the importance of connectivity between isolated populations and is usually applied in conservation of biological diversity and this should be the focus of this presentation.

6) Biodiversity collections and information systems
Since the Rio Summit and Chapter 40 of Agenda 21 information systems for biodiversity have become prominent and indispensable. Much of the mandate of IUCN is based on providing up to date data on biodiversity and conservation status world-wide. This has been (or is) complemented by the increasing data banks of genetic information. This ensures that biodiversity information is reflected from genetics to landscapes. The development of information systems should not be at the expense of maintaining biological collections such as housed at museums and herbaria. Indeed these should be complemented with live material collection (KEW). Zoological and Botanical gardens are also important in reducing the risk of species extinction and contribute to biodiversity conservation. In this presentation you will be expected to analyse the development of biological information systems and how they are backed by collection data that date back to the ancient Greeks.

7) Anthropocene (Sixth Extinction)
The Anthropocene is a term coined by Paul Crutzen, a Nobel Prize winning scientist, to describe the significant global impacts that human society has had in the last 200 years which may be so profound as to represent a new geological era. Levels of greenhouse gases (e.g. carbon dioxide, methane, etc.) during this period appear to be inceasing faster than at any previous time in the earth’s history. The combustion of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), increasing animal husbandry, deforestation and increased forest fires plus other activities like cement production and disposal of waste are thought to be factors in promoting climate change. The net effect of this is a loss of species that parallels previous upheavals in the Earth’s geological period. Discuss the validity of the term Anthropocene and Sixth Extinction using case studies to support your arguments.

8) Biodiversity and Climate Change
There are numerous indications that the Earth is warming at an alarming rate. Such evidence includes the melting of glaciers, the thawing of the permafrost and the thinning and break-up of the ice sheets at the North and South Pole. While we are not certain that all of this warming is an entirely anthropogenic result, there is direct evidence that it is having an impact on biodiversity. Such impacts include bleaching of the coral reefs, disrupted breeding cycles of birds, changing phenological patterns in plants. Fish populations have moved to seek cooler waters and potential disruptions of cold water upwelling will impact on marine ecosystems. Some animals like the Polar Bear are in grave danger of becoming extinct, since they rely on a frozen landmass for hunting and rearing of their young. Virtually all ecosystems are impacted by climate change. By using case studies, analyse which ecosystems and regions of the world will be most affected, and why? Also indicate which plants and animals are likely to be at most risk of extinction by the turn of the century.

9) Biodiversity and threats from Invasive Species.
The introduction of invasive alien species has had a profound impact on virtually all ecosystems world-wide (terrestrial, marine and freshwater). Using case studies identify some select ecosystems and discuss their vulnerability to biodiversity loss through the introduction of invasive species. In preparing your arguments take care to discuss the ecological impacts that invasive alien species have, not just a description of its spread.

10) The Species Concept and its implication for Biodiversity Studies and Policy Development
Almost all management of biodiversity and development of policy is based on species as the currency for conservation. In reality defining a species is less easy than it appears. The need for species to be adaptable ensures that most individual organisms have a unique genetic make-up. This inevitably leads to species being no more than a classification of similar genetic material.

Discuss the species concepts (including the origin and development of species concepts together with an overview of these concepts?), and their implication for biodiversity studies. Your presentation should also introduce the concept of Evolutionary Significant Unit (ESU). A good starting point on this topic is found is found here.

You will need to look at the implications of the “Species Problem” for legislation such as the Endangered Species Act.


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