Food Systems Ecology

SFS 3591

Food Systems Ecology

4 credits

It is estimated that most of the global terrestrial biodiversity loss is related to food production. Food systems account for around 25% of the global greenhouse gas emissions and an estimated 33% of soils are moderately to highly degraded due to erosion, nutrient depletion, acidification, salinization, compaction, and chemical pollution.

This course focuses on the ecology of food systems and on the impact of food production on biodiversity and natural resources and their management, as well as efforts to mitigate its impact. This framework provides a comprehensive approach to examining complex ecological relationships between agricultural practices and agroecosystem ecological state, drawing on the disciplines of biology, ecology, and climate.

The course provides theoretical and practical knowledge and skills needed to undertake field research on biodiversity conservation in agroecosystems. By working at the ecosystem and community level, students will learn research design, monitoring techniques, data gathering, analysis, interpretation, and communication of results.

Students will have the opportunity to visit different farming typologies as well as explore the surrounding natural habitats, experiencing the close interaction between the different habitats that characterize these ecosystems, conducting direct experiences of field research. The practical lessons will take place in three different areas of Tuscany. In the central Tuscan town of Chianti, students investigate the cultivation of vine and olive trees mixed with woodland areas. In Mugello, a few kilometers north of Florence, students examine pasture and agroforestry systems, such as chestnut groves, a typical cultivation of the Tuscan Apennine mountains. In Maremma, students explore a diverse region extending from coast to foothills interspersed with reclaimed wetlands and coastal fossil islands with Mediterranean macchia and holm oak woods.

View Syllabus

Sustaining Traditions: Food, Farming, and Climate

15 Weeks
18 Credits
Fall 2024
Sep 1 - Dec 12
Spring 2025
Jan 27 - May 9