General Plant Ecology/ Plant Ecology

BOT 4601 and BOT 5605 - Fall 2012

lecture: M, W, F at 8 am in PC 438

Blackboard Learn

Dr. Suzanne Koptur

OE 232, ph. 305-348-3103

office hrs M & W 10:30 - noon and by appt.


Course Description

This course will examine the ecology of plants at different levels: individual, population, and community. Our focus will be on the interactions of plants with each other, with other organisms, and with their environment. A general background in ecology is assumed (Prerequisite: PCB 3043, a general ecology class, or permission of instructor). Basic principles and foundations of the field will be considered as well as current research.

Readings will come from a textbook (see syllabus that follows) and articles from the literature to expand the topics. Lectures will be interspersed with discussion activities to maximize student participation in the learning process. Students will each have opportunities to lead class discussions, and all are expected to be prepared and participate in each discussion. Graduate students may have different responsibilities as appropriate for their background.

There will be two exams during the semester and a final exam. There will also be group projects with papers produced and powerpoint presentations in class. Lecture grades will be determined as follows: each exam 20%, projects 20%, and class participation 20%.

You are expected to be on time to class, and to stay the full period. You are expected to maintain high standards of academic honesty, avoiding plagiarism, and turning in or presenting work that is original and citing sources when used. Any student found in violation of these standards will earn an automatic F and be reported to the Deans Office, no exceptions made. In accordance with FIU's policy on academic honesty, as set forth in Section 2.44 of the Academic Affairs Policies and Procedures Manual (, it is expected that students in Plant Ecology will not submit the academic work of another as their own. Additional discussion of academic honesty and integrity may be found in the Manual of Student Conduct.

Learning Outcomes

Students completing the lecture course will attain familiarity with the ecology of plants around the world, with special attention to plants of south Florida and tropical environments. Students will be able to understand the many environmental forces that determine the occurrence of species, various forms of the plant body, and the performance and reproductive success of plants in different situations. Our textbook and lectures will highlight recent advances in research as well as historic studies that have laid the foundation of this important field of biological science.

Students pursuing lab activities will gain experience in field and lab research in plant ecology, be able to collect and analyze data, and interpret findings in written and oral presentations. They will succeed in working in teams, monitoring the growth of experimental plants, and measuring the outcome of manipulative experiments in the field. All these skills will prepare them for future work in natural areas management, research, or teaching in science.

Lecture Schedule

required textbook: Gurevitch, J., S.M. Scheiner, and G.A. Fox. 2006. The Ecology of Plants (2nd ed.). Sinauer Associates, Inc. Sunderland, Massachusetts.

Most weeks we will have two lecture days and one day for paper discussions. Students should read the chapters in advance and the assigned papers prior to the discussion sessions.




Week I - August 20 - M



22 August - W

Photosynthesis and light


24 August - F


Wk 2 - 27 Aug - M

Water relations


29 Aug - W

Soil and nutrients


31 Aug - F


Wk 3 - 3 September - M

Labor Day holiday - no class

5 Sep - W

Processes of Evolution


7 Sep - F


Wk 4 - 10 Sep M

Outcomes of Evolution; Habitats, plant adaptations, life forms


12 Sep W

Vegetative reproduction and sexual reproduction


14 Sep F


Wk 5 - 17 Sep M

Plant life histories


19 Sep W

Seeds and seedlings


21 Sep F


Wk 6 - 24 Sep M

Exam 1

26 Sep W

Community Properties


28 Sep F


Wk 7 - 1 October M

Competition and other interactions


3 Oct W

Herbivory and plant pathogen interactions


5 Oct F


Wk 8 - 8 Oct M

Disturbance and Succession


10 Oct W

Diversity and rarity


12 Oct F


Wk 9 - 15 October M

Study Day


17 Oct W

Exam 2


19 Oct F

Ecosystem Processes [Project Assignment]


Wk 10 - 22 Oct M

Communities in Landscapes


24 Oct W

Landscapes, metapopulations, fragmentation


26 Oct F

Discussion [Form project groups by today]

Wk 11 - 29 Oct M - Bahamas mtg Professor away

Library session - resources for project - meet with science librarian in GL 280

31 Oct W

Library session - resources for project - GL 280

2 Nov F

 no class meeting, work on project

Wk 12 - 5 Nov M

Climate and vegetation


7 Nov W



9 Nov F



Wk 13 - 12 Nov M

Veterans Day - University closed - no class


14 Nov W

Project presentations - post in course by today


16 Nov F

Project presentations


Wk 14 - 19 Nov M

Project presentations


21 Nov W

Project presentations - papers due by today (8 am tomorrow)


23 Nov F

Thanksgiving holiday, no class meeting


Wk 15 - 26 Nov M - last class mtg

Wrap-up day

Wk 16 - 5 Dec W - Final week

Final exam 7:30 - 9:30 am