Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

ENVS 227R Ecology of the Mediterranean Sea

Fall 2015

ENVS 227R: Ecology of the Mediterranean Sea

Diana Fernandez de la Reguera


Core requirements satisfied by the course:

Knowledge area: Scientific literacy Tier II

Skill: Critical Thinking Skills and Dispositions

Values Area: Promoting Civic Engagement or Leadership

Course Description

The Mediterranean Sea is the largest and deepest enclosed sea on Earth and a hotspot of biodiversity. Surrounded by Europe, Asia and Africa, the Mediterranean Sea has been for millennia the place where cultures, economies, political systems and religions meet and interact with each other. Its particularities make the Mediterranean Sea a great case study to better understand the functioning of ecological systems and their susceptibility to human activities through time.

The objective of this course is to provide students with an understanding of the ecology of the Mediterranean Sea and how the interactions between humans and the geography, oceanography and biology of this sea have shaped the ecosystem we see today. This goal is achieved by introducing the students to fundamental ecological concepts including ecosystem functioning, energy flow and matter transformation, food chain and elemental cycles and the human impacts on the Mediterranean environment. Impact reduction and remediation options would be also discussed, making the student aware of the environmental consequences of societal and individual actions, as well as the potential for reversal.  


Learning Objectives

This course should provide students with an increased knowledge of the environment, ecosystems and the interconnectivity of its different elements, as well as the role of humans and the influence of their activities in the ecosystem, with focus on the Mediterranean Sea. The student should understand the historical dimension of human induced changes in the area, as well as the interconnectivity between elements and the notions of positive and negative feedbacks in the ecosystem.

In addition to this main objective, a transversal objective of the course will be to promote critical thinking and environmental awareness, as well as make students conscious of their power and responsibility in relation to the environment.

Students will be asked to describe their current view of the Mediterranean Sea, and this will be confronted with their view after the knowledge acquired and the critical analysis provided during the course.

At the end of the course students will participate in a Foresight exercise where they will asses the current state of the Mediterranean ecosystems and identify the potential role of the different human impacts discussed in the current situation, as well as possible future realities as a function of different economic, political and management scenarios proposed by them.

With the mastery of this course, student should gain the following competencies:

Competency b: Demonstrate an understanding of the fundamental principles, concepts and knowledge of the sciences.

Competency g: Demonstrate and understanding of the interconnection among various components of Earth’s biosphere and the impact of human activity.

Competency e: Demonstrate the capacity to make reasoned and ethical judgments about the impact of science on individual, community and society.

Textbooks and readings

Abulafia, David. 2011. The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean. Oxford University Press.

Bianchi, C., and Carla Morri. 2000. ‘Marine Biodiversity of the Mediterranean Sea: Situation, Problems and Prospects for Future Research’. Marine Pollution Bulletin 40 (5): 367–76.

Coll, Marta, Chiara Piroddi, Camille Albouy, Frida Ben Rais Lasram, William W. L. Cheung, Villy Christensen, Vasiliki S. Karpouzi, et al. 2012. ‘The Mediterranean Sea under Siege: Spatial Overlap between Marine Biodiversity, Cumulative Threats and Marine Reserves’. Global Ecology and Biogeography 21 (4): 465–80.


 News briefing

Students should find relevant recent news on the Mediterranean Sea environment and human interaction with it and present them to the class. Students can work alone or in pairs.


-          Foresight exercise 10%.

-          Individual evaluation of the conclusions and action plan from the foresight exercise 30%.

-          News briefing 10%

-          Final exam 50%

Course Outline

I. Characteristics of the Mediterranean

            Geologic origin and Tectonic Evolution

            Geologic, Geomorphic and Topographic Particularities

Geography, subdivisions and Coastal Countries

Mediterranean current and past climate

            Oceanographic conditions and dynamics

Diversity, Ecosystem Composition and Productivity

            Historical anthropogenic influence


II. Main Human Impacts and Reduction and Remediation Measures


Climate Change


                        Influence of Climate & Species Distributions

                        Influence on Food Quality

                        Influence on the Sea (Temperature, Sea Level Rise, etc.)

                        Mitigation and Adaptation Measures


Habitat Fragmentation and Degradation

Causes & Patterns (Tourism, Costal Development, Sediment Loading)

                        Influence on Biological Communities

                        Reduction and Remediation Measures


Pesticides/Herbicides/Organic Toxins/Hormones/Pollution


                        Influence on Biological Communities

                        Reduction and Remediation Measures


Elevated Biologically Available Nitrogen


                        Influence on Biological Communities


                        Influence on Coastal Ecosystems

                        Reduction and Remediation Measures


Shipping and Globalization of Commerce and Trade

                        Influence on Biological Communities

Reduction and Remediation Measures


Introduction of Exotic/Invasive Species

                        Mechanisms of Dispersal

                        Influence on Biological Communities

                        Reduction and Remediation Measures


Overexploitation & Species Diversity loss I: Overexploitation of Natural Resources

                        Energy resources

                        Water resources

                        Food resources

                        Minerals resources


Overexploitation & Species Diversity loss II: Fishing Practices and Depletion of Global Fish Stocks

                        Causes & Patterns

                        Influence on Individual Species Populations

                        Influence on Marine Ecosystems.

                        Reduction and Remediation Measures

Overexploitation & Species Diversity loss III: Aquaculture and Mariculture


                        Influence on Marine Ecosystems

                        Remediation Measures


Sustainable use of the environment and ecosystems:

                        The Role of International Agreements

Sustainable fisheries

Sustainable agriculture

Sustainable farming

Zero emissions

Mitigation techniques for pollution


Temporal trends of Impacts and Threads


Uncertainties, Unknowns and Limitations