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Last modified: 28 Jun 2018 10:27

Course Overview

Terrestrial ecosystems play a pivotal role in modulating the fluxes of energy and matter at the Earth’s surface, including the cycling of carbon, nutrients and greenhouse gases. Understanding the structure and function of terrestrial ecosystems is critical for understanding environmental challenges such as global warming, biodiversity loss, sustainable development and pollution. This course develops principles of systems ecology and biogeochemistry, focusing on the fundamental role played by living things in regulating key ecosystem processes such as carbon cycling, nutrient dynamics, trophic transfers, and land-atmosphere exchange of greenhouse gases.

Course Details

Study Type Postgraduate Level 5
Session First Sub Session Credit Points 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits)
Campus None. Sustained Study No
  • Dr Yit Arn Teh

Qualification Prerequisites


What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Either Any Postgraduate Programme (Studied) or BI4015 Grant Proposal (Passed)
  • One of MRes Ecology & Environmental Sustainability or MRes Environmental Science or MRes Soil Science or MSc Ecology & Environmental Sustainability or MSc Forestry (Taught) or Master Of Science In Environmental And Forest Management or MSc Soil Science or MSci Biological Sciences

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?

  • PL3304 Ecosystem Processes (Studied)

Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

This course will develop the fundamental principles of ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry, to further develop the students’ understanding of how the principles of systems ecology can be applied to understand the structure and function of both natural and managed ecosystems. Key topics explored include: primary production (the carbon cycle, photosynthesis, plant growth and allocation patterns, plant ecophysiology); soil microbiology & organic matter dynamics (decomposer organisms, soil respiration, decomposition pathways, plant-microbe interactions); nutrient cycling (nutrient acquisition by plants, nutrient dynamics in soil, the nitrogen cycle); and ecosystem sustainability (human impacts, feedback effects). The course will consist of a mixture of lectures; both laboratory- and computer-based practical’s; and tutorials that explore current topical questions in the research literature.

Associated Costs


Further Information & Notes

Most of the course runs concurrently with PL3304. Level 5 students receive specialist tutorials in, e.g. applications of stable isotope techniques.

Degree Programmes for which this Course is Prescribed


Contact Teaching Time

55 hours

This is the total time spent in lectures, tutorials and other class teaching.

Teaching Breakdown


Practical assignment (67%) and Advanced Workshop Report (33%). NB Most of the course runs concurrently with PL3304. Level 5 students receive specialist tutorials in, e.g. biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, phosphorus cycling, isotope techniques, etc.

Formative Assessment

A strong emphasis will be made throughout the course on informal verbal feedback during practicals and tutorials sessions.



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