NBIK14004U  Freshwater Ecology

Volume 2016/2017

MSc Programme in Biology
MSc Programme in Agriculture
MSc Programme in Nature Management
MSc Programme in Environmental Science



The teaching varies between general ecological understanding and new research and discoveries; applied aspects of the management of freshwaters, excursions and practical field work, theoretical exercises and different models.

Important themes are:

  • The diversity of lakes and running waters in Denmark and globally.
  • The physico-chemical environment, sources of nutrients and their transport and turn over; furthermore, the living conditions in water.
  • The origin and development of lakes and rivers in a geological time frame, eutrophication and remediation in recent time.
  • The biology of plants and animals in lakes and running waters: dispersal, numbers, growth regulation and adaptations.
  • Biological interactions in lakes among phytoplankton, macrophytes, bacteria, zooplankton, benthic animals, fish and birds. Biomanipulation and chemical methods in remediation.
  • Biological interactions in running waters among periphyton, macrophytes, benthic animals and fish.
  • The uniqe environment and dynamics in running water.
  • The quality of running waters and how to judge from their biology.
  • Global change and biodiversity in lakes and running waters.
Learning Outcome

To understand variations in the environment, biological adaptations, interactions and turnover of matter in different types of lakes and running water; both nationally and global. It is also the purpose to understand the management of the freshwaters in a context of water supply and land use.

General goals:
The student is expected to achieve a general understanding of the most important freshwater organisms, their relation to the physical and chemical environment, and biological interaction among different groups of organisms. Such knowledge shall enable the student to explain the ecology of freshwaters in a coherent fashion and to use the knowledge operationally. Finally, the student shall understand the environmental quality of freshwaters and understand the factors controlling quality, and thus be able to discuss current issues relating to freshwaters and to do so with scientific arguments.

Specific goals:
After the course the student can:


  • describe the biology of the most important groups in freshwater (phytoplankton, zooplankton, macrophytes, macro invertebrates and fish)
  • identify the most important organisms with respect to specific processes, and provide names for the most important organisms in selected freshwater ecosystems
  • explain how the physico-chemical environment (e.g. stratification, light attenuation and inorganic pool of carbon) regulate and affects the most important group of organisms


  • define the spatial zones of lakes and running waters (e.g. epilimnion, littoralzone, spring, river)
  • describe the important ecological differences and similarities among different types of freshwater systems
  • describe and explain time and space variations for the composition, diversity and production in natural communities
  • provide examples of biological interactions among organisms in freshwater (competition, herbivory and predation)
  • predict and calculate the consequences for specific groups of organisms and turn over of matters with respect to changes in abiotic and biotic relations
  • explain adaptation with respect to ”life” in different freshwater habitats
  • explain input, output and turn over nutrients and organic matter in different freshwaters and their hydrological catchments


  • evaluate the effects of human impact (e.g. eutrophication, habitat degradation) for biological communities and the general ecology of freshwaters
  • evaluate, analyse and calculate using primary data and to use the correct units
  • use important scientific terms correctly
  • read, evaluate and present scientific literature

See Absalon.

The teaching is organised in themes covering both theoretical and applied aspects of freshwater ecology. The learning outcome is covered by lectures, excursions, demonstrations and theoretical exercises.
The course is part of the qualification profile Aquatic Biology.
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination, 4 hours under invigilation
All aids allowed

NB: If the exam is held at the ITX, the ITX will provide you a computer. Private computer, tablet or mobile phone CANNOT be brought along to the exam. Books and notes should be brought on paper or saved on a USB key.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship

Same as ordinary exam.

If 10 or fewer students have signed up for re-exam, the type of assessment will be changed to 20 minutes oral exam, no preparation time.

Criteria for exam assesment

To achieve the grade 12 the student must

  • Show a solid and comprehensive understanding of all aspects of limnology in concert with the questions and described in the general and specific goals of the course
  • Present the knowledge in a logical and academic context and use the international limnological terminology
  • Understand and solve quantitative questions presented during the course, both with respect to the physico-chemical environment as well as biological and ecological aspects
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Exam
  • 4
  • Excursions
  • 16
  • Preparation
  • 131
  • Lectures
  • 32
  • Colloquia
  • 23
  • Total
  • 206