Department Systems Analysis, Integrated Assessment and Modelling

Modelling Aquatic Ecosystems

Course 701-0426-00, Bachelor's and Master's programme Environmental SciencesETH Zürich


The students are able to:

  • build mathematical models of aquatic ecosystems that consider the most important physical, chemical, biogeochemical, biological, and ecological processes.
  • explain the interactions between these processes, especially between ecological and biogeochemical processes, and the behaviour of the system that results from these interacting processes.
  • formulate, implement and apply simple ecological models.
  • consider stochasticity and uncertainty.


  • Basic concepts:
    Principles of modelling environmental systems, formulation of mass balance equations, formulation of transformation processes
  • Formulation of ecosystems processes:
    Physical processes (transport and mixing, sedimentation, gas exchange, detachment and resuspension), chemical processes (chemical equilibria, sorption), biological processes (primary production, respiration, death, consumption, mineralization, nitrification, hydrolysis, bacterial growth, colonization)
  • Consideration of Stochasticity and Uncertainty Sources, description, and propagation of stochasticity and uncertainty
  • Didactic models of aquatic ecosystems:
    Lake phytoplankton model, lake phyto- and zooplankton model, two box oxygen and phosphorus lake model, model of biogeochemical cycles in a lake, oxygen and nutrient household model of a river, benthic population model of a river.
  • Research models of aquatic ecosystems for lakes and rivers
  • Exercises: implementing and practicing the application of the didactic models using libraries of the program package for statistical computing and graphics R (

Downloads 2024

Programm 2024


R reference card


21.02.2024: Slides_L1.pdf, plots_rate_factors.r

28.02.2024: Slides Ex1 [PDF], Exercise 1 [Rmd, PDF, HTML],
                  Solution Exercise 1 [Rmd, PDF, HTML]

06.03.2024: Slides Ex2 [PDF], Exercise 2 [Rmd, PDF, HTML],

                  Solution Exercise 2 [Rmd, PDF, HTML]

13.03.2024: Slides_L2.pdf, Exercise_L2.pdf

20.03.2024: Slides_L3.pdf, Slides Ex3 [pdf], Exercise 3 [Rmd, PDF, HTML],

                   Solution Exercise 3 [Rmd, PDF, HTML]

27.03.2024: Slides_L4.pdf

10.04.2024:  Slides_L5.pdf, Instruction Model Assignments, Topic 1, Topic 2

17.04.2024: Slides Ex4 [PDF], Exercise 4 [Rmd, PDF, HTML], Solution Exercise 4 [Rmd, PDF, HTML]

24.04.2024: Slides_L6.pdf

08.05.2024: Slides Ex5 [PDF], Exercise 5 [Rmd, PDF, HTML]

15.05.2024: Slides_L7.pdf

22.05.2024: Slides Ex6 [PDF], Exercise 6 [Rmd, PDF, HTML], Data Exercise 6 [CSV]

29.05.2024: Hints for the oral exam, Slides_L8.pdf