NBIK14004U Freshwater Ecology

Volume 2022/2023

MSc Programme in Biology
MSc Programme in Biology with a minor subject
MSc Programme in Environmental Science



The structure of the course is thematic and includes environmental aspects, biota and complex ecological interactions. There is an overall emphasis on how elements of Global Change affect the ecology of fresh waters. Applied aspects of the management of fresh waters are prominent, and the course includes excursions to lakes and streams as well as practical fieldwork and laboratory work to provide hands-on experiences with diagnostic tools in the management of fresh waters.

Important topics 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 biology of plants and animals in lakes and running waters: dispersal, numbers, growth regulation and adaptations;

  • Biological interactions in lakes among phytoplankton, aquatic plants, 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 ecological quality of running waters and how to evaluate it based on communities of key organisms;

  • Global Change and biodiversity in lakes and running waters;

  • Restoration of streams and lakes including establishing of new lakes.

Learning Outcome

To understand how variations in the environment influence biological adaptations and interactions among groups of organisms in different types of lakes and running water, nationally as well as globally. Moreover, the course also provides understanding of the management of the fresh waters 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 relationship with the physical and chemical environment, and biological interactions among different groups of organisms. Such knowledge shall enable the student to explain the ecology of fresh waters in a coherent fashion and to use the knowledge operationally. Moreover, the student shall recognise the environmental quality of fresh waters and understand the factors controlling ecological quality, and thus be able to discuss current issues related to fresh waters and to do so using scientific justification.

Specific goals:
After the course the student can:


  • describe the biology of the most important groups of organisms in fresh water (phytoplankton, zooplankton, aquatic plants, macro invertebrates and fish);

  • identify the most important organisms with respect to specific processes, and provide names for key organisms in selected freshwater ecosystems;

  • explain how the physico-chemical environment (e.g., stratification, light attenuation and inorganic pools of carbon) regulates and affects the most important groups of organisms.


  • define the spatial zones of lakes and running waters (e.g., epilimnion, littoral zone, 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 turnover of organic matters with respect to changes in abiotic and biotic parameters;

  • explain adaptation with respect to ”life” in different freshwater habitats;

  • explain input, output and turnover of nutrients and organic matter in different fresh waters and their hydrological catchments.


  • assess anthropogenic impacts on freshwater ecosystems in a sustainability perspective including identifying causes and effects of the current management practices as related to habitat loss, degradation and decline in biodiversity;

  • identify the effects of human impact on streams and lakes (e.g., eutrophication, habitat degradation) based on monitoring data and propose remediation activities including restoration;

  • analyse the ecological quality of streams and lakes using a holistic approach considering biological interactions and the influence of the surrounding landscape including issues related to land use.

See Absalon.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.
It is recommended that the student has passed the courses "General Ecology/Almen Økologi" and "Field Biology/Feltbiologi I, II og III, part III". A support package of relevant literature is provided for students coming with a different background.
The teaching is organised in themes covering both theoretical and applied aspects of freshwater ecology. The learning outcome is covered by lectures, excursions, demonstrations, group discussions, case studies and theoretical exercises.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 24
  • Class Instruction
  • 23
  • Preparation
  • 118
  • Excursions
  • 16
  • Study Groups
  • 21
  • Exam
  • 4
  • Total
  • 206
Continuous feedback during the course
  • Written feedback to lab reports
  • Oral feedback during classes
  • Individual feedback to lab reports and during classes
  • Collective feedback to lab reports and during classes
  • Continuous feedback during the course in the lab, in the field and in the theoretical classes
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination, 4 hours under invigilation
Type of assessment details
The course has been selected for ITX exam.
See important information about ITX-exams at Study Information, menu point: Exams -> Exam types and rules -> Written on-site exams (ITX).
All aids allowed

As the exam is an ITX-exam, the University will make computers available to students at the exam. Students are therefore not permitted to bring their own computers, tablets, calculators, or mobile phones.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship

The same as the 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

In order to obtain the grade 12 the student should convincingly and accurately demonstrate the knowledge, skills and competences described under Learning Outcome.