course description 

 Biocomplexity Research Focus




Prof. Dr. Farid Dahdouh-Guebas

Prof. Dr. Jean-Louis Deneubourg


  Systems Ecology and Resource Management

Social Ecology

e-mail : and

Unit of Social Ecology

Adaptive cycle


 course material 


The start of the next courses is scheduled in February 2014 and February 2015 (see schedule)

Course description


The course comprises 3 ETCS (2 ECTS theory and 1 ECTS exercises).  The course targets Master students from the disciplines of Biology, Bio-Engineering, Geography and Environmental Management...


Aims and objectives :

1.    To provide an overview of complexity in biology from the level of organisms and their constituents to large-scale social-ecological systems;

2.    To understand diversity, redundance, stability, hysteresis and resilience in a functional ecological context;

3.    To understand the ecological and social-ecological functioning of a global series of communities and ecosystems.

Upon completion of the course a student must be able to situate organisms into their wider functional framework (community/ecosystem/Earth system) and be able to critically assess their resilience in view of natural or anthropogenic change.


Compulsory or advised pre-knowledge :

A Bachelor training in sciences and a basis in general ecology is required.

Consider taking the following course in parallel Scientific Presentation Skills and Career Planning (BING-F-537).


Content :

The course comprises the following themata :

Understanding change and ecosystem management (FDG) :

-       definitions linked to systems ecology and adaptive cycles;

-       ecosystem services.


Social-ecological change, governance and stewardship (FDG) :

-       Ecological resilience and social-ecological resilience;

-       Social-ecological governance and transformations in ecosystem stewardship;

-       Adaptive management.


Complexity at several levels in biology and ecology (JLD) :

-       Feedbacks and feedback networks from cells to ecology

-       Dynamics and stationarity

-       Hysteresis and multistationarity

-       Thresholds

-       Spatial patterns

-       Rhythms

-       Waves

-       Chaos


Mathematical basis for understanding complexity and change (JLD) :

-       Equations

-       Simulations

-       Models


Complexity and resilience in social insects (JLD)


Complexity and social-ecological resilience in forest systems (FDG)


Complexity and social-ecological resilience in dryland systems (FDG)


Complexity and social-ecological resilience in freshwater systems (FDG)


Complexity and social-ecological resilience in oceans and estuarine systems (FDG)


Complexity and social-ecological resilience in social communities (JLD)


Complexity and social-ecological resilience in human systems (JLD)




Compulsory study material :

Didactical material and information used during the course.


Additional study material :


- Ball, P., 1999. The Self-Made Tapestry : pattern formation in nature. Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K. 287 pp.

- Berkes, F., J. Colding & C. Folke, 2003. Navigating Social-Ecological Systems. Building resilience for complexity and change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. 393 pp.

- Gunderson, L.H. & L. Pritchard Jr., 2002. Resilience and the Behavior of Large-Scale Systems. Island Press, Washington D.C., US. 287 pp.

- Gunderson, L.H., C.R. Allen & C.S. Holling, 2009Foundations of Ecological Resilience.  Island Press, Washington D.C., US. 496 pp.

- Chapin III, S.F., G.P. Kofinas, C. Folke & M.C. Chapin, 2009Principles of Ecosystem Stewardship: Resilience-Based Natural Resource Management in a Changing World. Springer Science, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.  402 pp.


+ current international research publications


Type of examination :

Individual assignment + oral examination.  The examination matter is the oral and written matter covered during the lectures.  Note that the course material only provides the slides used during the lectures and not all oral and blackboard information !



Additional information:

The following website has been developed :

Thesis topics : introductory lecture + +



Schedule (Academic year 2013-2014)




There are 10 lecture days of 2.5 h.


Please check on your institution's official course schedule for dates, times and venues:



or check both, because sometimes there may be incomplete data, errors or double bookings...


Details on research, thesis topics and individual assignments are given during the first lecture.





Students belonging to curricula who are following this course optionally or with special statutes (top sports, handicap,...) are requested to take contact with the lecturer for the planning of the examination.


All exams take place in room to be announced.


Exam first session (June 2014) : please sign up for the day of exam at your secretariat, or with the class responsible who will interact over this with the lecturer.  Exams take place individually at 20'-intervals between students starting at 08h00.


ULB Master des sciences en biologie des organismes et écologie :

Finalité approfondie : to be announced

Finalité Biodiversité et Environnements Végétaux Tropicaux – BEVT (Master International) : to be announced

Finalité didactique : to be announced


VUB Master in Biologie/Biology :

Environment, Biodiversity and Ecosystems : to be announced

Human Ecology : to be announced


Master in Marine and Lacustrine Science and Management – Oceans & Lakes (International Course Programme) : to be announced


All other programs : to be planned



Exam second session (September 2014) :

All curricula :
to be planned



Course material


All course material should be downloaded through your e-learning platform :


Université Virtuelle (ULB) :


PointCarré (VUB) :



Practicals and individual assignment


See course work





None foreseen.



Systems Ecology and Resource Management

Social Ecology