6 credits during the 1st year of 10723 MARINE BIOLOGY AND ECOLOGY (LM-75) GENOVA
1° Semester
This unit is a module of:
Teaching materials



The course aims to define the seascape ecology, to introduce the concept of landscape, to explain ecological processes and spatial organization, heterogeneity, fragmentation, homogenization, and the role of patches and corridors. The seascape indices and their importance in the field of environmental monitoring and evaluation of the status of coastal marine habitats (ecosystem status assessment) will be described. Fractal theory, connection and connectivity, metapopulations and metacomunities will be explained. A mention will be made to the scale, extension and resolution of the maps. Seascape, reefscape, and benthoscape will be defined. The importance of marine spatial planning will be emphasized. Examples will be given of semiotics and diagnostics of the marine landscape, of marine environmental cartography, of diachronic cartography. The main methods of remote sensing, acoustic techniques, sea truth will be described. Particular focus will be made to the habitats of priority conservation interest of the European Union: Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows, estuaries and lagoons, reefs, submerged or semi-submerged marine caves. Finally, the principles and methods of cartographic restitution of the marine landscape and Geographic Information Systems for the analysis and management of the marine landscape will be explained.

Teaching methods

The teaching consists of lectures and exercises.
Lectures in the classroom are delivered through multimedia presentations. As there is no reference text adopted, class attendance is strongly recommended. The student can make use of the material made available on Aulaweb.
Exercises are carried out regularly in class for the application of the acquired knowledge, attendance at lectures and exercises is thus strongly recommended. The exercises also constitute a self-evaluation test. The planned exercises are:
1. Reading and positioning on a nautical chart
2. Aurora transect: topography / geology
3. Polygonal construction
4. Posidonia transect
5. Posidonia density
6. Epiphytic and phenology of Posidonia
7. Habitat suitability in lagoons
8. Magra confinement
9. Aurora transect: bionomy
10. Confinement in caves


The course program includes:

Definitions of seascape ecology. Landscape concept. Background. Differences among disciplinary fields (geomorphology, botany, architecture, ecology, etc.). Importance of the idea of ​​perception. Concept of territory. The landscape according to the European community. Notes on European and national regulations. Role of the landscape ecology in the link between scientific culture and humanistic culture. The landscape approach to environmental issues. Neutral, perceptive, cognitive landscape.

Principles and methods of landscape ecology. Landscape as a system of ecosystems. Complexity of the environmental mosaic, hierarchical and spatial aspects, structures, processes, changes. Relations and interchanges between landscape ecology, advanced technology, and ecological theory. Differences with experimental ecology. Criticism of the population growth model. Environmental heterogeneity and ecosystem functioning (principle of incompatibility of the necessary processes). Ecological processes and spatial organization. Space configuration. Landscape ecology and geomorphology ("ecogeomorphology"). Type of elements of the territorial mosaic. Heterogeneity, fragmentation, homogenization. Patches, corridors. Description, geometry and measurement of the spots. Derived landscape indices. Fractal theory and its applications in landscape ecology. Central areas and edges, margin effect. Relationships between ecosystems: dilution, scalar transition, marginal contacts. Review of supply side ecology; stepping-stone models. Ecotones and ecoclins. Connection and connectivity, difference with connectivity. Metapopulation and related models, source and sink dynamics. Metacomunity and related models: neutral; patch dynamics; species sorting; mass effect.
Spatially explicit criteria. Semivariograms and autocorrelograms (concepts of range and lag). Ecological gradients. Ecological distances vs geographical distances. Dispersion models: circulation models vs. life-traits. Disorder and fragmentation. Scales and heterogeneity. Scale components: extension and resolution.
Applicability of the landscape concept to the marine environment. Seascape, reefscape, benthoscape. Importance of scuba diving and underwater visual inspection technologies. The sea as a territory and the problem of the multiple needs of use of the marine territory; operational, administrative and conceptual difficulties. Management of maritime state property. Marine spatial planning. Qualification and definition of marine seascapes. Bionomic approach. Recalls on the identification criteria of the population units: physiognomy, dominance, fidelity. Definition of types: Manuel Nouveau (and subsequent additions to the Endoume school), and UNEP RAC-SPA classifications (Regional Activity Center for Specially Protected Areas), and EuNIS (European Nature Information System). Semiotics and diagnostics of the marine seascape. Characterization and evaluation of the state of marine ecosystems: indicators and indices. Concepts of good enviromental status (GES) and seafloor integrity. Indices adopted by ISPRA and regional environmental agencies: M-AMBI (Multivariate - Azti Marine Biotic Index), BITS (Benthic Index based on Taxonomic Sufficiency), PREI (Posidonia Rapid Easy Index), CARLIT (CARtography of LITtoral and upper-sublittoral benthic communities). Examples of other indices not adopted by Italian law. Criteria for defining the state of ecosystems (ecosystem status assessment): expert judgment, biotic indexes; comparison with reference communities. The problem of sliding baseline syndrome (SBS) and the choice of reference conditions: pristine areas (or protected areas), historical data, models. Overview of habitat adequacy models (suitability modeling habitat). Predictive models of habitat and species distribution. The problem of data quality in time series. Environmental Quality Ratio (EQR) concept. Importance of the objectives: recovery, maintenance, directional trend.
Seascape and marine environmental cartography. Principles and purposes of the bionomic cartography. Theoretical aspects and practical applications. Choice of descriptors and related reasons. Historical background and current state of knowledge and achievements. Tradition in the Mediterranean: the French school. Meaning and use of diachronic cartography; concordance and discordance maps. Reference basic cartography: projections, ellipsoid, coordinates. Reference Italian cartography: maps of the Hydrographic Institute of the Navy (IIM), maps of the Military Geographic Institute (IGM), Regional Technical Maps (CTR); cadastral maps; other cartographies, with particular reference to the British Admiralty maps. Differences between nautical charts and land maps: distance measurement, orientation, coastline. Zero measurement: instantaneous, medium (medium sea level), altimetric, hydrographic (absolute, medium), biological.
Planning of the marine thematic cartographic survey. Sampling design: complete areal coverage, streaks and transects, point surveys; uniform, random, layered layout. Interpolation and extrapolation. Positioning: GPS satellite system (Global Positioning System), differential GPS, compass, hints on radiodistanziometric systems and on theodolite and geodimeter.
Remote sensing. Satellite techniques (Landsat, SPOT, Ikonos). Aerial photo: applications and limitations. Airborne sensors (LiDAR, CASI). Drones. Ultrasound methods. Echo sounder, multibeam, side scan sonar: applications and limitations. The integrated RoxAnn system. Backscatter. Acoustic region concept. Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV). Sea-truth. Point sampling, applicability to cartographic purposes. Interpolation techniques: empirical methods, probabilistic methods, deterministic methods. Geostatistics: kriging, Tobler's law, regionalized variable theory, TSA (trend surface analysis). Remote controlled video systems. Towed vehicles or ROV (remotely operated vehicle). Towed cameras. Autonomous scuba diving. Underwater surveys. Depth transects (maximum variance) and parallel transects (minimum variance). Topographic, morphological and bionomic surveys. Point inspections and transects. Quick and instrumental surveys. Underwater scooters. Polygonal (basic and derivative). Integration between different methods. Three-dimensional detection and construction of DEM (digital elevation model). Photogrammetry and SfM techniques (structure from motion).
Habitat approach, with particular reference to habitats of conservation interest of the European Union. Relevant Community Directives: Habitat (1992); Water Framework (2000); Strategic Environmental Assessment (2001); Environmental Liability (2004), INSPIRE (2007); Marine Strategy Framework (2008). The Habitat notebooks of the Ministry of the Environment and the Protection of the Territory and the Sea and other reference publications.
Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows. Recall on the importance of marine phanerogams and species present in the Mediterranean. Notes on community, national and regional regulatory aspects. Levels of study: plant, meadow, associated community, seascape. Phenology. Flowering. Coverage, density, biometric measures, and derived indices. Density of the meadow, absolute or depending on depth. Notes on lepidochronology. Types of limits: shaded, sharp, eroded; normal limits and regressive limits. Leaf index or LAI (Leaf Area Index). Coefficient A, grazing index, epiphytic index. Main borers and epiphytes. Concepts of conservation, fragmentation, substitution and phase shift and related synthetic seascape indices. State of seagrass meadows in Liguria.
Estuaries and lagoons. Physical and ecological definitions; etymology. Concept of transitional waters. Type of Italian lagoons. Multiple needs of use of the lagoon area. Characteristics of lagoon ecosystems. Eurialinity, stenoalinity, mixoalinity; peciloalinità and homoalinità. Artenminimum and horohalinicum concepts. Venice system: freshwater, oligoaline, mesoaline, polyaline, eualine and hyperaline. Bionomic criterion. Paralic domain. Confinement and its measurement. Vivification, marinization. Criticism of confinement theory and multifactorial approach. Gradients. Time stability. Bioclimatic classification of Italian lagoons: sub-Atlantic lagoons and eumediterranean lagoons (mesomediterranee and xeromediterranean).
Reefs. Definition. Importance of bioconstruction. Sessile indicator organisms. Spatial zoning: sectors, ensemble, stage. Sopralitoral, mid-littoral (upper horizon, lower horizon), infralittoral fringe. Tide pools and rock pools. Concept of biological zero and its applications. Infralittoral: upper, middle, lower. Photophilic algae populations, hemifotophiles, antishiafilous and shiafilous. Zoocyanellae and zooxanthellae animals. Overlapping facies. Riedl hydrodynamic model. Light trend, hydrodynamism and temperature. Circalitoral: precoralligenous and coralligenous. Biocostructors and bio-eroders. Importance of filter feeders. Different environmental meaning of basal, intermediate and upper layer. Submerged or semi-submerged sea caves. Definition. Geological features and origin. Bio-ecological characteristics: flora and fauna aspects (composition of the population, disappearance of the plants, dominance of the sessile fauna, role of the vagile fauna); evolutionary aspects (colonization of the caves, cryptic or batiphile species and secondary troglobosis, marginal or anchialine caves); biocenotic aspects (type and distribution of the different populations, semi-dark caves and dark caves); ecological aspects (environmental parameters and structure of populations, light, hydrodynamism, hydrological confinement, trophic depletion). Cultural and scientific characters: charm, mystery and myth; affinities and parallelisms between underwater caves and deep environments. Deep habitats. Detritic bottoms.
Principles and methods of cartographic restitution of the marine seascape. Detection scale and restitution scale. Criteria for choosing the scale and its implications. Cartouche and legend. Types of legends: conceptual and practical aspects. Population unit (habitat). Significant species (characteristics of biocenosis; indicators; others); protected species. Dynamic. Bionomic maps and territorial maps. Concepts of mesotypology, biotypology and ecotypology. Characteristics of the marine environment: morphobathymetric and sedimentological map, map of biocenosis, map of natural emergencies. Evaluation of the marine environment: map of degradation and risk of the marine environment, map of the vulnerability of the marine environment, map of the quality of the marine environment, map of the susceptibility of use of the marine environment.
Geographic Information Systems and their use for the analysis and management of the marine seascape. GIS (Geographical Information System). Databases. Metadata. Vector maps and raster maps. Pixel. Vectorization. Graphic elements (points, lines, polygons) and attributes. Levels (layers); overlay procedures. Topological analysis.



The adoption of a reference text is not envisaged. Available (downloadable from Aulaweb) a copy of the presentations used during the classes, didactic material and scientific articles for further information. The teaching material is therefore made up of personal notes and the material available on Aulaweb.

As a reference text, to integrate the contents of the lessons, the following is recommended:
O. Musard, L. Le Dû-Blayo, P. Francour, J.P. Beurier, E. Feunteun, L. Talassinos. Underwater Seascapes. From Geographical to Ecological Perspectives. Springer International Publishing, 291 pp. ISBN 978-3-319-03439-3


Ricevimento: Students are received by appointment, agreed directly with the teacher by telephone (0103538065), by email ( or via Aulaweb.

Exam Board


MARCO FIRPO (President)



Teaching methods

The teaching consists of lectures and exercises.
Lectures in the classroom are delivered through multimedia presentations. As there is no reference text adopted, class attendance is strongly recommended. The student can make use of the material made available on Aulaweb.
Exercises are carried out regularly in class for the application of the acquired knowledge, attendance at lectures and exercises is thus strongly recommended. The exercises also constitute a self-evaluation test. The planned exercises are:
1. Reading and positioning on a nautical chart
2. Aurora transect: topography / geology
3. Polygonal construction
4. Posidonia transect
5. Posidonia density
6. Epiphytic and phenology of Posidonia
7. Habitat suitability in lagoons
8. Magra confinement
9. Aurora transect: bionomy
10. Confinement in caves


The lessons of the first semester will start from September 30th 2019 and will end by January 17th 2020, the lessons of the second semester will start from February 17th 2020 and will end by June 12th 2020.
Consult detailed timetable at the following link:


Exam description

The exam consists of an oral test.
The exam will start with the exposition of a topic chosen by the student (among the topics covered during classes or with the exposition of a scientific article provided in the material for further study), and will continue with further 2/3 questions asked by the teacher on topics covered during the teaching.
2 exams will be available in the winter session (January-February) and 5 exams in the summer session (June, July, September).

Assessment methods

Details on how to prepare for the exam and the degree of detail required for each topic will be provided at the beginning of the course and confirmed during the classes. The oral exam will mainly focus on the topics covered during the lectures and will aim to assess the achievement of the appropriate level of knowledge. The ability to present the topics clearly and with correct terminology will also be evaluated. The oral exam starts from the critical report on a scientific article (among those provided and available on Aulaweb) to evaluate the ability to understand a scientific text dealing with marine seascape ecology and to elaborate landscape information based on the knowledge of the fundamentals of subject, of the propensity to link the various topics, and the application aspects. The completeness and correctness of the exercises proposed during classes will also be positively evaluated to those who will have done them and will take them to be evaluated during the exam.
During the course, a number of eight OPTIONAL written questionnaires will be proposed periodically, with multiple choice questions, including part of the topics covered during classes. The questionnaires will also be useful for a self-evaluation of the understanding of all the topics covered in class. The written tests will be evaluated in thirtieths (30). Being optional, each student will be able to decide whether to do them all or to do only a partial number. The student will also be able to decide whether to keep all the scores of the questionnaires, which will then average with the score of the oral test, or if do not consider one or more scores of the questionnaires (whose evaluation will therefore not be taken into account in the final average) and make only the full oral exam. If the student had taken the written questionnaires, the oral exam will be reduced and aimed exclusively at verifying any critical issues emerging from the questionnaires.

Exam schedule

Date Time Location Type Notes
12/06/2020 10:00 GENOVA Orale
15/06/2020 09:30 GENOVA Orale
17/06/2020 09:30 GENOVA Orale
26/06/2020 10:00 GENOVA Orale
29/06/2020 09:30 GENOVA Orale
30/06/2020 09:30 GENOVA Orale
10/07/2020 10:00 GENOVA Orale
15/07/2020 09:30 GENOVA Orale
17/07/2020 09:30 GENOVA Orale
03/09/2020 10:00 GENOVA Orale
04/09/2020 09:30 GENOVA Orale
07/09/2020 09:30 GENOVA Orale
17/09/2020 10:00 GENOVA Orale
18/09/2020 09:30 GENOVA Orale


Regular class attendance is strongly recommended as a reference text is not used for this course. Furthermore, in class, practical exercises and written questionnaires (OPTIONAL) will be carried out periodically.