About this Course
The course is heavily dependent upon online involvement in forums - where you share reflections upon the content explored within a collaborative learning environment. On completion of the course you will submit a design task which involves describing an assessment you could perform to test the health of an agro-ecosystem. This acts a reference point to determine the positive impacts of actions taken on a landscape to restore it to better health.
This course can be enrolled in separately or be included within a more comprehensive Permaculture Design Certificate - that explores the application of a wide range of design principles and methodologies to creating regenerative foodscapes.
The following key ideas will be explored within this course.
- Ecosystem Patterns: Explores the patterns that emerge in ecosystems as a result of time, heights and area due to niche specialisation of species.
- Matter and Energy: Exploring how matter is recycled through the complex interactions living things that maintains nutrients bio-availability and sustains the health of that ecosystem and energy flows through tropic cascades in food webs.
- Ecosystem Health: Explores indicators of the healthy function of an ecosystem that translate to management of an agricultural ecosystem.
This course explores the form and function of a healthy ecosystem which we can use for guidance in creating our own healthy agricultural systems
The following topics are explored:
- Biotic and Abiotic Factors: Exploring how an ecosystem is composed of living biological elements and non-living abiotic elements and how the complex interactions of these elements create stability and highly evolved species adapted to their respective niches.
- Recycling Matter: Exploring how matter is recycled between these Earth's spheres and how the biosphere moderates these cycles to create stability in ways that benefit life.
- Energy flow: Exploring how energy flows through tropic cascades through ecosystem food webs and how the complexity of those food webs creates energy transfer efficiencies that stabilise those ecosystems.
The Importance of Healthy Ecosystems
The challenge our civilization faces is to learn new ways of meeting our demand for resources in ways that tie in with what ecosystems can sustainably provide. Humanity has the amazing capacity to learn creative new solutions to problems we face and permaculture provides us with a thinking system to apply these creative solutions to providing our resources in a way that will regenerate the land.
An ecosystem is a distinct habitat with a range of organisms (plants and animals) adapted to that habitat. The plants and animal that share that habitat are engaged in a complex series of interactions where they compete for resources, prey upon each other and modify the habitat in ways that affect the other living things that share that habitat.
Ecosystems with higher biodiversity tend to be more stable with greater resistance and resilience in the face of disturbances, disruptive events.
Because ecosystems components are interdependent, by degrading or improving one aspect of ecosystem health, the entire system can likewise be degraded or improved. Rebuilding soil organic matter pumps carbon dioxide into the soil in the form of soil carbon and creates an upward spiral of ecosystem health. Making soil health a central goal of agricultural policies worldwide will be essential for achieving global food and water security and mitigating climate change. The benefits of a switch to a more ecologically oriented farming system would be seen in human and animal health, and improvements in soil and water quality.
An ecosystem includes all of the biotic factors or living things (plants, animals and organisms) in a given area, interacting with each other, and also with their non-living environments (weather, earth, sun, soil, climate, and atmosphere). The non-living aspects of an ecosystem are called abiotic factors. At a basic functional level, ecosystem generally contains primary producers (plants) capable of harvesting energy from the sun through the process called photosynthesis. This energy then flows through the food chain. Next come consumers. Consumers could be primary consumers (herbivores) or secondary consumers (carnivores). These consumers feed on the captured energy.
The flow of energy through food webs, the recycling of matter within Earth's spheres and underlying these complexities the underlying strand of how ecological systems organise themselves in a balanced complexity to most efficient use of available resources in a way that stabilises those resources and supports the continuation of life. It is with these structures in mind that we need to design our own structures to arrive at the same resilient productivity.