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Origin and Maintenance of Biodiversity

4 ECTS Kourou Year 2 Semester 3 Elective Environmental sciences


  • Diversity and distribution:

The course develops the theoretical aspects of biodiversity measurement and the theoretical probability distributions that drive it.

Species-Abundance Distributions (log-series, lognormal, geometric and broken stick) are studied in depth.

The theory of biodiversity measurement is developed from the classical indices (richness, Shannon, Simpson) to entropy, Hill numbers, phylogenetic diversity and functional diversity. Diversity partitioning is studied to introduce beta- diversity consistently. Estimation of asymptotic diversity, rarefaction and extrapolation techniques are explained and applied.

Finally, Species-Area Relationships are studied to understand the different scales of biodiversity.

  • Ecological genetics

The course is design to provide the masters students with an overall understanding of the use of molecular tools in the study of ecological processes, with a strong emphasis on showcasing current research programmes currently ongoing at the Ecological Genetics and Genomic Lab at the UMR EcoFoG.

The course aims to show that molecular tools play a major role in studying biodiversity, that the student 1) is capable of understanding and evaluating molecular ecology publications; 2) they learn the basics of experimental design for eco-evolutionary projects; 3) they have basic notions on how molecular data is analysed.

Class 1: Genetic diversity and Population genetics. Range of molecular techniques, molecular tools, and molecular markers. Examples

Class 2: Species concept and speciation processes. Phylogeny, and species barcoding and metabarcoding. Examples.

Class 3: Transcriptomics: transcriptome assembly, gene expression, and adaptive genetics/genomics. Examples.

  • Biotic interactions

The aim of this course is to improve students’ understanding of the diversity and roles of interspecific interactions in ecosystems. This course provides the foundations to understand the role of ecological and evolutionary processes on species interactions through integrating theory and empirical studies, using a variety of examples with special emphasis on mutualism. The focus will be on tropical ecosystems where biotic interactions play more intense selection pressures. The interactions will be interpreted both in their ecological framework, at a given time, and as the result of past evolution between the species involved. If the interactions are characterised as unstable, this course will illustrate some mechanisms that allow their stability over time. Finally, interactions between species will be discussed in more detail through several case studies.

Learning outcomes

The course objective is to understand how the different theories used to explain the observed patterns of biodiversity were born, to understand their philosophy and mathematical foundations, to see the limits of each of them and to understand in which scientific context they emerged. The students will be able to apply these theories to explain the phenomena of spatial structuring and forest dynamics at the scale of the gene, the species and the community.

Teaching and learning methods

The course is mostly provided in the classroom, with 2 hours of practical work.

Type of assessment

  • Individual
  • Written exam


  • Location : Kourou
  • ECTS granting : AgroParisTech
  • Organisation : AgroParisTech


Eric Marcon

Dr Eric Marcon

  • Senior lecturer
  • AgroParisTech, Montpellier France