Max Planck Gesellschaft

Tropical Forest Ecology 2016

15.02.16 - 04.03.16
M.Sc. Forest Sciences

Room to be announced
Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources
Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg

Module coordinator
Dr. Norbert Kunert
Additional Lecturers
Dr. Alida Mercado Cárdenas
Dr. Carlos Sierra

'Mesic forest on Hawaii'

To download the course schedule CLICK HERE!!

Information about the field trip to Zurich CLICK HERE!!!


Tropical forests play an important socioeconomic, ecological and environmental role on local, regional and global scales. They are a source of genetic diversity offering various medicinal plants, high productive fruiting plants, valuable timber and numerous other forest products. Containing about half of Earth’s species, tropical forests provide habitat for many migratory animals and are home for diverse indigenous cultures. Tropical forests have an important function within the world’s climate as they are one of the main drivers in the global hydrological and carbon cycles. Furthermore, tropical forests are considered a buffer for global climate change as they store vast amounts of carbon.

The functionality of these forests depends largely on their health and vitality and they can only continue to function either in a natural undisturbed state or when managed sustainably. In all tropical regions, deforestation continues at an alarmingly high rate and in some regions only small fraction of the original area remains today. Appropriate conservation and sustainable management strategies are missing, partly due to the high complexity of these ecosystems. Studying the ecology of tropical forests, we can begin to understand and explain this complexity and set strategies to conserve these valuable forests for future generations.

During this course, the main ecological characteristics of tropical forests will be discussed: definition of tropical forests; different tropical forest types; soils and climate; biogeochemical cycles; biodiversity and coevolution. It will also provide an assessment of current threats to tropical forests such as deforestation and habitat fragmentation, conservation strategies and restoration of tropical forests.

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures will provide an overview over ecological and physiological processes in tropical forests and the human impacts on the ecosystems. Students will read selected texts to prepare discussions. Students will also prepare and deliver a term paper and presentations on specific topics. Students develop a management plan based on the knowledge and the skills learned during the course.

Teaching goals

Students understand and can explain complex ecological processes and relationships and transfer this knowledge e.g. to a management plan. Students learn to work in a heterogeneous team and need to focus on a highly productive output with a defined deadline (you better stick your heads together!). Further, they can independently gain knowledge by learning how to gather information and search for literature. They are able to write a scientific review. Students are capable to lead a qualified discussion based on scientific facts or present their findings in front of a bigger audience.

Student evaluation will be based on three points:

- Term paper about a classical article (50%)

- Final presentation of term paper to the class (20%)

- Forest management plan (30%)

The Forest Management Project

This exercise is for students who have their interest in applied forestry. The ability to transfer the knowledge gained during the course will be tested. Students will be motivated to go new and innovative ways to create their own management plan for a tropical forest. Real life data from forest monitoring plots will be provided.

ATTENTION FORESTERS! This is your chance to create a new future in tropical forestry and to proof your on creativity!!!

Information will be uploaded HERE

General assignment

The term paper is thought especially for students planning on an academic career. With the term paper the students should learn to review the literature and to write innovative scientific manuscripts.

Topics for assignment

Choose your topic here!

Time Schedule Presentations Term Projects Please check if your name is on the list and in the right group!

Recommended books

Ghazoul, J., Sheil, D., 2010. Tropical Rain Forest Ecology, Diversity, and Conservation. Oxford University press, Oxford, UK.

Kricher, J., 2011. Tropical Ecology. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.

University website

Course Material

Please rate the course:

'View on the confluence between the Rio Negro and the Amazon River or Rio Solimões (Manaus, Brazil).'

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