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PLANT ECOPHYSIOLOGY

             
Compulsory/Elective Code Semester Lectures Practicals Credits ECTS
Elective 13Β050 8th 4 Hrs/Wk  3 Hrs/Wk 5 6,5
Aims:
 
 

The course introduces students to fundamental concepts of plant ecophysiology, i.e. strategies, tactics and adaptive mechanisms of plants grown under ambient, natural conditions. Focus is specifically placed on: the abiotic environment of plants, seed ecophysiology, ecophysiology of photosynthesis, inorganic nutrition and environmental stress, the role of secondary metabolites, aspects of conservation biology (i.e. ecophysiology of endangered plant species) and sexual reproduction. Emphasis is given to the native plants of the Mediterranean ecosystems.

 
Objectives:
 
 

Knowledge: At the end of the course students should have: a) developed a deep understanding of the importance of Plant Environmental Physiology, b) acquired enhanced knowledge on plant functions and processes in the field, c) learned the mechanisms and the significance of interactions between plant functions and biotic and abiotic factors of the environment.

Skills: At the end of the course students should have made: a) progress into thinking in a critical and integrative way, b) progress in enhancing both their individual and group work skills, c) steps towards respecting life and natural environment as well as exercising self assessment and criticism.

Abilities: At the end of the course students should be able: a) to develop cogent and critical arguments based on analyzing and assessing relevant data and information, b) to perform, analyze and report on experiments and observations making use of up-to-date technological tools, c) to defend and orally present projects in related topics.

 
Lectures:
 
 

Introduction: What is Ecophysiology - role and importance. Fundamental concepts: adaptation - fitness, strategy - tactics, adaptive mechanisms, natural selection.

The Abiotic Environment of Plants: Solar radiation, adaptive mechanisms in different light environments; temperature, energy balance, soil, inorganic nutrients etc.

Seed and Germination Ecophysiology: Reproduction types, the principle of allocation. Reproductive effort. Seeds - properties, size and quantities. Predispersal hazards, masting. Dispersal: curves, factors, dispersal spectrum. Soil and canopy (aerial) seed banks. Dormancy: types, mechanisms of release, ecological role, evolution. Germination: abiotic factors and adaptive mechanisms.

Ecophysiology of Photosynthesis: The functional importance of the diverse photosynthetic pathways of CO2. assimilation. The biochemical, physiological and ecological framework of the photosynthetic types C3, C4 andCAM. Adaptive pros and cons of each type at different habitats.

Ecophysiology of Mineral Nutrition: Introduction. Mineral nutrients in the soil. Factors that affect acquisition of nutrients (abiotic factors: climatic conditions, soil properties. Biotic factors: root morphology, microorganisms in the soil, biological nitrogen fixation, mycorrhizal associations). Plant nutrient use efficiency (plant nutrient concentration, nutrient productivity and mean residence time, nutrient loss from plants).

Life History and Functional Types: Diverse life history strategies. Growth forms, monocarpy - polycarpy, competitors - tolerants - ruderals. Plant functional types and the decisive importance of certain morphological and physiological traits.

Ecophysiology of Sexual Reproduction: Types of sexual reproduction. Costs and benefits. Reproductive systems and fertility programmes. Sexual incompatibility, sex expression, sex determination. Monoecy - dioecy, gene flow during the successive stages of sexual reproduction.

Ecophysiology of Environmental Stress: On the etymology of stress. Water flow in plant species. Water efficiency. Water availability and plant productivity. Salinity stress. High temperature. Low temperature. Plant response to environmental stress. Genes in the field.

Ecophysiological Role of Secondary Metabolites: Introduction. The principal groups of secondary metabolites, the major pathways of their biosynthesis and interrelationships with primary metabolism. Secondary compounds and plant defence (terpenes, phenolic compounds, alkaloids). Defence against abiotic factors (temperature, drought, ultraviolet radiation). Plant responses to abiotic factors. Chemical defence against biotic factors (herbivores, microorganisms). Allelopathy. Role of secondary metabolites in pollination and seed dispersal.

Ecophysiology of Threatened Plants - Conservation Biology: Plant diversity with emphasis on the Greek flora. Rarity, extinction, invasion of alien species. Reproductive biology of rare and threatened species. Management and protection of threatened species. Restoration projects. In situ and ex situ plant conservation.

 
Practicals:
 
 

1. Climate and meteorological data analysis - 2. Instruments and methodology for environment factor monitoring (light and temperature) - 3. Postfire regeneration - emergence and survival of seedlings - 4. Regulatory mechanisms of seed germination in the field - soil seed bank - 5. Influence of water and salinity stress on seedling development - 6. Effect of the nutrient solution pH on seedling growth - 7-8. Critical reading of scientific review papers.

Seminar: Short research project: 4 week-long, student group work, on a specific topic selected from a list of suggested ones. Critical reading – data analysis, delivery of oral presentation and written report.

 
Instructors:
 
  Lectures: Sophia RhizopoulouProfessor of Plant Ecophysiology (Coordinator) - Maria-Sonia Meletiou - Christou, Assistant Professor of Plant Physiology - Dr. Pinelopi Delipetrou (Laboratory Teaching Staff) -  Dr. Maria Doussi (Laboratory Teaching Staff)
 
  Practicals: Sophia Rhizopoulou, Professor of Plant Ecophysiology (Coordinator) - Maria-Sonia Meletiou - Christou, Assistant Professor of Plant Physiology - Dr. Pinelopi Delipetrou (Laboratory Teaching Staff) -  Dr. Maria Doussi (Laboratory Teaching Staff)
 
Notes:
 
 

There are no prerequisites for the student to choose and attend the course. However, optimal student performance and effective learning are enhanced by sound knowledge in basic courses of Biological Sciences like Botany and Plant Physiology.

The course is offered to Erasmus students: Teaching in Greek language - Exams in English language.

The evaluation processis carried out in Greek language (there is the possibility in English for Erasmus students), with a final examination of the whole course that includes: a) Written exam, at the end of the semester, consisting of questions in short-answer free-text response format, b) Performance during laboratory exercises, c) Written reports on laboratory exercises, d) Written report and oral presentation of a research topic. The average grade of Laboratory Exercises contributes 50% to the final, total, course grade.

 
Contact:
 
  If you require more information, please contact the Course Coordinator, Prof. Sophia Rhizopoulou at: Tel 0030 210 727 4513, Email: srhizop[at]biol.uoa[dot]gr