Department Systems Analysis, Integrated Assessment and Modelling

Modelling Aquatic Ecosystems

Course 701-0426-00, Bachelor course Environmental Sciences, ETH 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 (