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Last modified: 22 May 2019 17:07

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
  • Professor Stephen Woodward

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

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?

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 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 is structured according to an inverted or “flipped” classroom format, with lecture content delivered via video. In-class time will consist of active learning activities, including literature analysis and critique, conceptual problem-solving exercises, quantitative numerical assignments, and laboratory practicals.

Associated Costs


Further Information & Notes

 This course runs concurrently with PL3304.

Details, including assessment, may be subject to change until 31 July 2022 for 1st half-session courses and 23 December 2022 for 2nd half-session courses.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

  • 1 Computer Practical during University week15
  • 2 Computer Practicals during University week16
  • 1 Science Laboratory during University weeks 13, 15
  • 2 Science Laboratories during University week14
  • 3 Lectures during University weeks 13, 17
  • 2 Lectures during University weeks 14 - 16

More Information about Week Numbers

Details, including assessment, may be subject to change until 31 July 2022 for 1st half-session courses and 23 December 2022 for 2nd half-session courses.

Summative Assessments

This course consists of 100 % continuous assessment. 1st attempt: (i) written assignment (literature critique; 40 %), (ii) practical assignment (35 %), and (iii) a group executive report (oral presentation; 25 %).

Resit: Similar to 1st attempt, with continuous assessment mark(s) carried forward with an opportunity to resit the component which was failed in the first attempt.

Formative Assessment

Formative assessment forms a core component of the course as a means of developing key subject-specific and generic (i.e. transferable) skills. These include a range of activities, including structured small group exercises and individual numerical assignments.


Each student or group will receive feedback and a mark for each formative and summative assessment. Feedback will be provided in either oral or written form for formative assessments, depending on the nature of the exercise. Written feedback will be provided for summative assessments. Students who are identified as having difficulty in successfully completing the coursework assessment tasks or participating small group exercises will be invited to meet the course coordinator to identify difficulties and discuss solutions.

Course Learning Outcomes


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