Introduction to ecosystems

This free course from The Open University is designed to help you gain an understanding of the natural world and how the web of life works, with illustrations from around the world.
What’s it about?

If we don’t grasp why ecosystems function, it becomes harder to determine possible reasons for when they don’t, and makes it difficult to identify possible environmental threats to humans. In this course you will discover how organisms are linked together by complex interrelationships, how such links are studied and how the physical properties of a particular habitat interact with the organisms that inhabit it.

Using case studies, you will come to learn how knowledge of ecosystems leads to understanding of their individual importance, and how they can be preserved.

What will I learn?
When you reach the end of the course you will have explored the concept of an ecosystem and be able to:
  • define an ecosystem
  • understand the different ways in which a system can be analysed
  • use your knowledge of the key features of ecosystems to determine interrelationships between organisms in a simple ecosystem
  • describe adaptations shown by animals to extreme desert and polar environments
  • discuss how small organisms in marine systems contribute to energy flow through ecosystems
  • explain how humans impact on three examples of fragile ecosystems.
What’s involved?

Although the course has been designed to be studied over six weeks, the course is open all year for you to join at anytime and study at your own pace.

Throughout each week the materials that you study will pose questions. These questions are designed to get you thinking about the natural world and the structure of ecosystems. There will also be questions that stimulate you to think about how we humans interact with the ecosystems around us. Some questions will be quite specific, but there will be others that are far more open, prompting discussion and consideration of evidence but perhaps not reaching firm conclusions.




Current Start learning

Course Code: ECO_1
Available: 10 February 2015
Duration: 6 weeks,3 hours
Type: Micro course
Assessments: 2 hours

Credentialing: Non-formal recognition
Course Credit: Non accredited
Additional Courses:
Credential: Statement of Participation
Level: 1st year Bachelor’s

This Open University science open course, presented on OpenLearn, is produced with the kind support of Dangoor Education.

Course image ©The Open University 2015

The Open University is proud to make this course freely available under a Creative Commons licence. Unless otherwise stated or third-party materials which are used with permission, so are not subject to the Creative Commons licence, or ours to give away. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements section of the course.