cod. 1008033

Academic year 2021/22
3° year of course - First semester
- Cristina MENTA
Academic discipline
Zoologia (BIO/05)
Discipline biologiche
Type of training activity
55 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit


Learning objectives

Knowledge of the basic and advanced characteristics of soil. Development of study skills, synthesis, critical evaluation of indications relating to the quality of edaphic environments. Learning of the application of indices for the assessment of the quality of soils and their biodiversity. Understanding of the main causes of degradation, loss of fertility, biodiversity and naturalness of soils.


Basic knowledges on: inorganic and organic chemistry, animal biology, botany and mineralogy

Course unit content

Soil: formation, properties and functions
Nutrient cycles in the soil
Soil biodiversity
Land use, soil degradation and soil restoration
Biological indicators and indices applied to soil

Full programme

Soil definition
Soil: genesis, properties and functions
Soil functions and Ecosystem Services
Factors of pedogenesis
Pedogenetic processes
Profile and horizons
Soil composition, physical and chemical and biological characteristics

The cycles of nutrients in the soil
Trophic networks of the soil
The ecology of nutrient cycles in the soil
The cycle of carbon, nitrogen, sulfur
Organic matter: composition, humification processes, forms of humus
Influence of organic matter on the physical and chemical characteristics of the soil
Mineralization of organic matter

Soil biodiversity
Soil virus
Microflora (bacteria, actinomycetes, algae, fungi)
Fauna (protozoa, mycetozoa, rotifers, nematodes, tardigrades, mollusks, annelids, oligochaetes, arthropods).
Systematic and functional approach.
Ecological interactions between the living components of the soil
Interactions between microbes and plants
Zone of interaction between plant roots and soil organisms: the rhizosphere
Animal / microorganism and animal / plant interactions
Activity of the biotic component of the soil
Hypogeal trophic networks
Fragmentation, mixing and incorporation of the organic substance
The role of microflora in the demolition of organic matter
Dispersion and selection of microflora

Land use, degradation and protection
Changes in land use
Main causes of soil degradation
Agricultural ecosystems
Relationship between land use, management and living component

Biological indicators and indices applied to the soil
Microbial biomass as a quality indicator
Plant indicators: the case of plants
Soil invertebrates as quality indicators
The maturity index of nematodes
Oligochaetes: ecological classification of earthworms
Microarthropods: QBS-ar and QBS-C soil biological quality indices
Bioaccumulation of trace elements in terrestrial invertebrates
Application of ecotoxicology to the soil matrix as a technique for assessing the level of pollution and degradation
The use of springtails and earthworms in evaluating soil quality: toxicity tests with Folsomia candida and Eisenia fetida


Guida alla conoscenza della Biologia e della Ecologia del Suolo. Menta Cristina. Perdisa Ed. 2008 (in Italian). For non-Italian students the teacher provides material in English

Teaching methods

Classroom lessons, streaming lessons. Program for the lessons: Teams. Will be organised lab activities and practical activities in team.

Assessment methods and criteria

Oral test + oral presentation using power point. The oral presentation will evaluate a specific subject decided together professor-student.

Other information

There will be the possibility to organize an educational activity in field.

For not Italian students, the test can be performed in another language (English, French, Spanish)