Thesis subject

Agroecology for the more-than-human Anthropocene: a landscape ecology study of the Olive Quick Decline Syndrome in Apulia, Southern Italy

How does the ecology of the landscape (e.g. polyculture or intercropping, agroecological practices, presence of forest areas nearby) influence the spread rate of the disease?

Practical information

Starting date: Flexible
Preferred language: Any (knowledge of Italian or other Latin language is a +)
Location: Italy
Supervisors: Fabio Gatti (KTI) & Harro Maat (KTI)


In the last decade, the bacteria Xylella fastidiosa has decimated the olive trees population in Salento, the Southern part of the Italian region of Apulia. Most of the initial studies, informing policymakers and influencing the direction of the public policies specifically developed to tackle the crisis so far, have been mostly focusing on the pathogen-host-insect vector interaction.

However, very little has been done to understand - quantitatively - the ecological complexity of the epidemic, and the influence of the broader (socio-ecological) environment on the response of individual agricultural plots to the spread of the bacteria. For example, no research so far has tried to understand how the ecology of the landscape, the biology of the soil, or different degrees of complexity of the farm influence the resilience of the olive ecosystem to the disease. Also, no study has attempted to explain the why of different spread rates of the disease, despite different areas of the region clearly showing a different evolution of and morbidity to the epidemic. This project aims at addressing these research gaps.

Type of research activities

  • Quantitative data and samples collection from the field;
  • Optional: landscape ecological modelling.

What kind of student are we looking for?

  • A student in MID, MDR, MOA or a student with an interest in Social Science and Agroecology.