Theoretical ecology & ecosystem modelling


This course consists of 5 sessions of 2h long each and will provide, first, an introductory survey of modern theoretical ecology (2 sessions) and second, the essential elements required to simulate ecological foodweb dynamics using computer programming for scientific research (3 sessions). We will use Matlab / Octave(*) as programming language.


Programme information: 

A) Theoretical Ecology (an ABC introduction)

Session 1: Coexistence and competition

• Predator-prey model of Lotka-Volterra dynamics
• Resource competition theory: the Rstar concept
• Selective predation theory: killing-the-winner
• Species coexistence and competitive exclusion
• Niche theory versus neutral theory: who's right?

Session 2: Complexity and stability

• Resilience as a measure of ecosystem stability
• Complexity and stability of ecological foodwebs
• Productivity versus species diversity relationships
• Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (BEF) theory
• Species traits and trade-offs: why are they so key?

B) Ecosystem Modelling (using MATLAB programming)

Session 3: Lotka-Volterra in 0D (without spatial resolution)

• Predator-prey model of Lotka-Volterra in 0D (no spatial resolution)
• Description of the two model equations and their biological meaning
• Numerical solving: Euler (unstable) vs. Runge-Kutta method (robust)
• Dynamics of the system: predator-prey cycles due to neutral stability
• Plotting the final results: temporal solutions and the phase plane

Session 4: NPZD model in 0D (without spatial resolution)

• Ecosystem model: 'Nutrients - Phytoplankton - Zooplankton - Detritus'
• Description of the four model equations and their biological meaning
• Numerical solving using the Matlab solver ode45 (i.e. fast Runge-Kutta)
• Dynamics of the system: steady-state points and stable limit cycles
• Plotting the final results: temporal solutions and the phase plane

Session 5: NPZD ecosystem model in 1D (with vertical resolution)

• Seasonal cycle of the solar radiation and vertical extinction in the water column
• Seasonal cycle of turbulent diffusion and vertical structure in the water column
• Coupling the ecological model to the physical turbulent diffusion plus cell sinking
• Plotting the final results in 2D (depth vs. time) using the command "imagesc"

Course dates: 

No edition programmed


Institut de Ciències del Mar

Number of hours: 


Contact for further information: 

For additional information, please contact the program coordinator maria.pastor [at]



Special requirements: 

Computer with Matlab / Octave installed
Computer Programming (any language)


Price: 0.00€

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