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Last modified: 26 Feb 2018 19:35

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 Undergraduate Level 3
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?

  • One of BI1508 Ecology and Environmental Science (Passed) or BI1509 Ecology and Environmental Science (Passed) or BI1511 Ecology and Environmental Science (Passed) or BI15P1 Introduction to Soils (Passed) or BI2001 Community Ecology (Passed) or BI2016 Community Ecology (Passed) or BI2019 Community Ecology (Passed) or BI2020 Ecology (Passed) or BI25P2 Biological Topics in Plant and Soil Science (Passed) or BI25P3 Biological Topics in Plant and Soil Science (Passed) or BI25P4 Plants, People, and the Environment (Passed) or SF1504 Ecology and Environmental Science (Foundation) (Passed)
  • Either Programme Level 3 or Programme Level 4
  • Any Undergraduate Programme (Studied)

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 in weeks 13-17, and is scheduled in Thread 1, so may have contact hours in any or all of these times:  Mondays, 9-13; Thursday, all day; Friday, 9-13.  If this is an optional course, there may also be contact hours on Wednesdays, 11-13.

Contact Teaching Time

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

Teaching Breakdown

More Information about Week Numbers

Details, including assessments, may be subject to change until 31 August 2023 for 1st half-session courses and 22 December 2023 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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