Systems ecology

This course is part of the programme
Master’s study programme Environment (second cycle)

Objectives and competences

Students will develop the ability to connect systems thinking and methods of application of general systems theory to identify the characteristics of ecosystems, using modern methods of ecological modelling. Students will acquire methodological skills required to build a qualitative and quantitative ecological models that will allow them to acquire new knowledge about the behavior of the studied ecosystems (models for interpretation), will be able to predict their behavior (predictive models) and build models for the management of these systems (models decision support).


Basic knowledge of ecology, biology, mathematics and computer science that students get at the first level of the university study.


Systems ecology is focused on the study of the structure and functioning of ecosystems based on the methods of general systems theory and ecological modeling. The subject is divided into three sections. The first deals with ecosystem theory, the second with ecological modeling, and the third with the application of the methods of systems ecology methods to study the structure and functioning of ecosystems elaborated in the first two sections. In the first part of the course, students become familiar with the principles of the system, the systems thinking, and general systems theory in the perception of ecosystems. The second part deals with approaches to ecological modeling, which is further used for systemic elaboration of environmental issues in the third part of the course.

Intended learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding:

Students will gain the ability to connect different levels of ecological systems they will understand their mutual and reciprocal relationships which will enable them to identify their responses (from species to ecosystem level) to changes in environmental factors. The acquired knowledge will enable them to design the systemic measures to reduce or eliminate negative impacts and to develop new approaches that will help them to improve the condition of affected ecosystems. Thus, they will address the integration of all three topics in order to achieve comprehensive treatment of the studied problems and to design their systemic solutions.


  • Jorgensen, S. E. 2012. Introduction to systems ecology. New York. CRC Press: 320 pp.
  • Bertalanffy von, l. 1968. General System Theory. New York, George Braziller: 295 pp. E-version
  • Jorgensen, S. E., Müller, F. (eds.). 2000. Handbook of Ecosystem Theories and Management. Boca Raton, London, New York, Washington D. C., Lewis Publishers: 600 pp. E-version
  • Jorgensen, S. E. 1997. Integration of Ecosystem Theories: A Pattern. Second Revised Edition. Dordrecht, Boston, London, Kluwer Academic Publishers: 388 pp. E-version
  • Patten, B. C., Jorgensen, S. E. (eds.) 1995. The Part – Whole Realtion in Ecosystems.New Yersy, Prentice Hall: 736 pp.
  • Müller, F., Leupelt, M. (eds.). 1998. Eco Targets, Goal Functions, and Orientors. Berlin, Springer: 619 pp.
  • Jorgensen, S. E., Bendoricchio, G. 2001. Fundamentals of Ecological Modelling, Third edition. Elsevier, 530 pp.E-version


• Report on project work (40%) • Written examination (60%)

Lecturer's references

Associate Professor of Ecology at the University of Nova Gorica

DEBELJAK, Marko, POLJANEC, Aleš, ŽENKO, Bernard. Modelling forest growing stock from inventory data : a data mining approach. Ecological indicators, ISSN 1470-160X, jun. 2014, vol. 41, str. 30-39, doi: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2014.01.010. [COBISS.SI-ID 27499559]

DEBELJAK, Marko, TRAJANOV, Aneta, STOJANOVA, Daniela, LEPRINCE, Florence, DŽEROSKI, Sašo. Using relational decision trees to model out-crossing rates in a multi-field setting. V: JORDÁN, Ferenc (ur.), SCOTTI, Marco (ur.). Proceedigs of the 7th ECEM, European Conference on Ecological Modelling, 30 May - 2 June 2011, Riva el Garda, Italy, (Ecological modelling, ISSN 0304-3800, vol. 245, 2012). Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2012, vol. 245, str. 75-83, doi: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2012.04.015. [COBISS.SI-ID 25848103]
tipologija 1.08 -> 1.01

CORTET, Jérôme, KOCEV, Dragi, DUCOBU, Caroline, DŽEROSKI, Sašo, DEBELJAK, Marko, SCHWARTZ, Christophe. Using data mining to predict soil quality after application of biosolids in agriculture. Journal of environmental quality, ISSN 0047-2425, 2011, vol. 40, no. 6, str. 1972-1982, doi:10.2134/jeq2011.0155. [COBISS.SI-ID 25336615]

DEBELJAK, Marko, SQUIRE, Geoff R., KOCEV, Dragi, HAWES, Cathy, YOUNG, Marc W., DŽEROSKI, Sašo. Analysis of time series data on agroecosystem vegetation using predictive clustering trees. V: LAROCQUE, Guy R. (ur.). Proceedigs of the Ecological modelling for enhanced sustainability in management, ISEM 2009, October 6-9, 2009, Québec, Canada, (Ecological modelling, ISSN 0304-3800, vol. 222, no. 14, 2011). Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2011, vol. 222, no. 14, str. 2524-2529, doi: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2010.10.021. [COBISS.SI-ID 24218407]

DEBELJAK, Marko, DŽEROSKI, Sašo. Decision trees in ecological modelling. V: JOPP, Fred (ur.). Modeling complex ecological dynamics : an introduction into ecological modelling for students, teachers & scientists. Berlin; Heidelberg [etc.]: Springer, cop. 2011, str. 197-209. [COBISS.SI-ID 24842535]