cod. 1005140

Academic year 2022/23
1° year of course - First semester
Academic discipline
Botanica ambientale e applicata (BIO/03)
Discipline del settore biodiversità e ambiente
Type of training activity
48 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit

Learning objectives

At the end of the course, students will be able to understand how the current distribution of plant species and communities derives from historical causes and current influences of the main environmental factors.
By understanding the principles controlling the natural distribution of plants, students will also acquire the ability to read and interpret the landscape and will have acquired the knowledge bases to manage the plant diversity, also from the perspective of the dynamics induced by climate change and land use.



Course unit content

Study of the relationships between plant taxa and environment, investigated at individual, population and plant community level. Study of the geographic distribution the plants and of their responses to the variation of the main climatic and soil variables.

Full programme

- Geobotany: definition and articulation of the discipline.
- Phytogeography: phytochorology and phytocoenology.
- The concepts of flora and vegetation.
- Plant ecology and ecophysiology
- Case study: European distribution of beech, English oak and Scots pine.

- The concept of distribution.
- General and territorial, primary and secondary, current and previous range.
- Representation of species distribution.
- The characters of the distribution range: extension, continuity, density and localization.
- Disjunct distribution range: causes and consequences, types of disjunction.

- The chorological elements of the Italian flora.
- Atlantic and sub-Atlantic elements.
- Central European and Central-South European mountain elements.
- Mediterranean and Oromediterranean elements.
- Pontic and Turanian elements.
- Eurasian and Eurosibiric elements.
- Paleotemperate and cicumboreal elements.
- Arctic-alpine and cosmopolitan element.

- The endemic element.
- Characters of endemism: range extent, taxonomic rank and age.
- Formation of the endemic area: passive and active endemogenesis.
- Cytotaxonomic classification of endemisms: paleo-, schizo-, patro- and apo-endemism
- Types of endemisms: insular, mountain, desert and edaphic.
- Endemisms of the Italian flora.

- Methods for the definition of chorotypes.
- The chorological spectra.
- Geographical, historical and ecological significance of the chorological elements.

- The concept of relict.
- Geographical relicts: tertiary, glacial, Atlantic and xerothermic.
- The heterotopia.
- The geographical and ecological vicariance.
- True vicariance and pseudovicariance.
- Models of distribution range dynamics over space and time.

- The concept of biodiversity.
- Difference between biomes and territorial floristic units.
- Criteria for identifying the territorial floristic units.
- The characters of the natural territorial floristic units.
- The factors that influence the floristic richness of a territory.
- The classification of the biosphere into floristic kingdoms, regions, provinces and districts.
- The 7 floristic kingdoms.
- The Eurosiberian and Mediterranean regions.

- Modifications of the distribution range over time: regression and extension.
- Causes and factors that influence the modifications of the distribution range.
- Exotic species: naturalized, adventitious and acclimated.
- The migratory currents.

- Paleobotany.
- The geological eras and the periods of paleobotany.
- The paleophytic and the mesophytic.
- The ancient and recent neophyte.
- The recent quaternary in Europe.

- Plant ecology.
- The concepts of optimum and limiting factors.
- Principles of ecology.
- Resources and disturbance.
- The limitation: biomass production and species persistence.
- The concept of stress: destructive and constructive role
- Theoretical scheme of plant responses to stress.
- The adaptive traits.

- Light: characteristics of radiation and controlling factors.
- The light inside the vegetation: equation for light extinction.
- The adaptations of plants to light: modulative, modifying and evolutionary.
- Heliophilous and sciaphilous plants.

- Solar radiation and photosynthetically active radiation.
- The radiative balance at the leaf level.
- Heat losses due to evaporation and convection.
- The microclimate of plants.
- The role of plants in the energy balance at the ecosystem level.

- Photosynthesis: role on a global level.
- The absorption of photons and photosynthetic pigments.
- The assimilation of carbon dioxide: the Calvin cycle.
- Rubisco: carboxylation and oxygenation.
- The photosynthetic process in C3, C4 and CAM plants.

- CO2 assimilation: availability and demand for gas.
- The photosynthetic efficiency.
- The saturation curve of photosynthesis for light.
- The points of compensation and saturation.
- Radiation stress.
- Strategies and mechanisms of protection against photoinhibition and radiation damage.

- The concepts of temperature and heat.
- Stresses due to extreme temperatures.
- Resistance to cold: tolerance and avoidance.
- The cardinal points of the temperature: minimum, optimum and maximum.
- Damage and causes of death from extreme temperatures.
- The process of acclimatization to low temperatures.
- Classification of plants based on resistance to heat and cold.
- Temperatures on the earth's surface.

- The wind: direct and indirect actions.
- Mechanical action of the wind on mountain vegetation.
- Adaptive stretches to limit the negative effects of the wind.
- The positive effects of the wind.
- The role of wind in evapotranspiration.
- Interaction between wind and topography in alpine environments.

- Plants and water.
- Water content of tissues and water needs of plants.
- The balance between water uptake and loss.
- The pecilohydric and homohydric plants.
- The types of water inside the plant.
- The water potential.
- The turgor, osmotic, matrix and gravitation potentials.
- The soil-plant-atmosphere continuum.
- Uptake, xylem transport and transpiration.
- Water stress: environmental and physiological drought.
- Light or severe water stress.
- Resistance to water stress: xerophile plants.
- Strategies for resistance to water shortage.
- Stress from excess water.

- The characteristics of the aquatic environment.
- Aquatic plants: hydrophytes and macrophytes.
- Pleustophytes, rhizophytes and helophytes.

- The climate, or phytoclimate.
- Macro-, meso- and micro-climate.
- The climatic factors and elements.
- The main bioclimatic indices: Lang, Emberger, Rivas-Martinez, Mitrakos, Amman and Gams.
- Climate diagrams.

- The soil, the pedosphere and the rhizosphere.
- The organic and inorganic nature of the soil.
- The characteristics and the vertical profile of the soil.
- The nutrients for plants.
- Nutritional status and nutrient deficiency symptoms.
- Plant responses to harmful or detrimental elements.
- The different types of elements in the soil.
- Soil reaction: causes and consequences.
- Plant preferences for pH: acidophilic, neutrophilic and basifilic species.

- Calcicolous and calcifugal plants.
- Characteristics of carbonate and silicate soils.
- Stress from salt accumulation and halophytes.
- Resistance to salty soils: halotolerance and compensation mechanisms.
- Heavy metals and metallophytes.
- Mechanisms of resistance to heavy metals.
- The vegetation of the ophiolites and the serpentinomorphosis.

- Eutrophication in arctic and alpine environments.
- Increased nitrogen deposition and plant sensitivity.
- The role of snow accumulations and snow melting.
- The effect of climate warming on the nutrient availability.
- Impact of climate change on mountain plants.
- Direct and indirect evidence of climate changes in mountainous areas.
- Plant responses: persistence, migration or extinction.

- The structures of the biocoenosis and phytocoenosis.
- Life forms and growth forms.
- The Raunkiaer system: phanerophytes, chamaephytes, hemicryptophytes and cryptophytes.
- Cryptophytes: therophytes, geophytes, helophytes and hydrophytes.
- The biological spectrum and climatic characteristics.
- The structure of matter: biomass, necromass, phytomass, litter and humus.
- Ecosystem functions, processes and services.


"Geobotanica" in Strasburger E. Trattato di Botanica, parte sistematica. Antonio Delfino Editore

Ubaldi D. Geobotanica e Fitosociologia. CLUEB.

Pignatti S. Ecologia vegetale. UTET.

Leuschner C & Ellenberg H. Vegetation Ecology of Central Europe. Springer.

Larcher W. Physiological Plant Ecology. Springer.

Teaching methods

Frontal lectures, which can also be attended remotely (synchronously via Teams and asynchronously via the link on the Elly page of the course), in which the topics of the course will be addressed. The topics will be presented by the teacher and discussed through active interaction with students.

Assessment methods and criteria

Oral exam to verify how the knowledge acquired during the course can be used by students to understand the conceptual basis of the conservation of plant diversity and ecosystem functions controlled by plant activities. The exam will be passed when the students reply positively and adequately to two questions out of the three proposed.

Other information

Link to the Elly page of the course: