cod. 1009368

Academic year 2023/24
2° 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

Development of study skills, synthesis, critical evaluation of indications relating to the quality of edaphic environments.
Learning skills: ability to identify, learn and apply analytical methodologies useful for the collection of data or the analysis of indicators useful for describing the impacts of different land uses.
Making judgement: ability to develop independent assessments by crossing the criteria of scientific approach with the methodologies applied in the national and international application context.
Communication skills: to learn the basic concepts of the dissemination of technical-scientific content in order to allow the correct transfer of information.
In detail and more related to the topic of the course: Advanced knowledge of issues related to soils. Learning of the application of indices for the evaluation of the quality of soils and their biodiversity. Understanding of the main causes of degradation, loss of fertility, biodiversity, and naturalness of soils.


Basic knowledge of inorganic and organic chemistry, animal and plant biology, mineralogy. Database search capacity. Ability to use Power point, word, excel

Course unit content

Soil: Introduction
Soil Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital
Soil biodiversity, UE new strategies
Ecosystem functions and soil food webs
Soil degradation and loss of fertility and biodiversity
Agricultural ecosystems – impact of different managements
Forest ecosystems - impact of different managements
Biological indicators and indices of degradation, loss of fertility, loss of biodiversity
Example of case studies and project

Full programme

Basic concepts related to soils (pedogenetic aspects, soil types, organic matter, mineral substance, soil water)
Soil: natural heritage to be safeguarded
Ecosystem services attributed to soil: production of raw materials; food supply, attenuation capacity against substances of anthropogenic origin; maintenance of habitats and genetic reserve.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) n. 15 Life on land - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and European Green Deal - Soil biodiversity and ecosystem services
Factors driving soil biodiversity
Ecosystems goods provided by soil biota are:
food production;
fibre production;
fuel production;
provision of clean water;
provision of secondary compounds (e.g. pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals).
Ecosystems services provided by soil biota:
driving nutrient cycling and regulation of water flow and storage;
regulation of soil and sediment movement and biological regulation of other biota (including pests and diseases);
soil structure maintenance;
detoxification of xenobiotics and pollutants
regulation of atmospheric composition.
Soil trophic networks as a tool for assessing ecosystem functionality
Soil degradation and loss, erosion, loss of fertility
Ongoing climate change - examples of natural catastrophic events and impacts on soils
Agricultural ecosystem - Impact of different agricultural practices on soils
Conventional and conservative agriculture in comparison
Sustainability of agroecosystem
Bare soil and use of cover crops – Consociations
Stable meadows - biodiversity reserve
Forest - Impact of different forest managements on soil and soil biodiversity
Indicators of soil degradation and quality
Soil biodiversity as an indicator of the quality and health of terrestrial ecosystems
Application of the QBS-ar index to real study cases (laboratory activities)
Integrated approach to soil degradation assessment – Examples of international projects


Considering the vastness of the topic, a specific text is not used for this course, but the teacher directly provides the study material (scans of documents, websites, photocopies)

Teaching methods

Lectures in the classroom and in synchronous streaming and in synchronous-deferred. Platform: teams. Brief discussion by students to be presented using power point (maximum duration 15 minutes), related to topics of interest in the course. Working group for the deepening of a case study and the design of a project related to soil restoration. Discussion on the most emerging issues relative to soil.
In-depth seminars (2-3) by experts (Italians and foreigners) on some issues addressed in the course.
Practical laboratory and field activities

Assessment methods and criteria

Oral test (30') + oral presentation using power point. The oral presentation will evaluate a specific subject decided together professor-student and it will take place during the course (15').
For non-Italian students, the test can be performed in another language (English, French, Spanish)

Other information

There will be the possibility to organize an educational activity in field.
The student will be able to apply the soil biology quality index QBS-ar