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Plant Ecology

Course Co-ordinator: Dr Sarah Woodin


To provide a broad overview of plant ecology, to consider the development of ecological theories and explore the applications of those theories for practicing ecologists today, and to cover the following topics: Community ecology; Description of communities' Community analysis; Species ecology.
By the end of this course you should be able to:
1. look at vegetation and ask pertinent questions about why it is like it is;
2. begin to interpret what you observe;
3. collect data to provide further answers;
4. use multivariate methods in analysing such data;
5. set up vegetation surveys and monitoring programmes.

3-4 lectures per week plus field trips, computer practicals and group discussions.

Continuous assessment based on an essay and a project report.

Plant Biogeography & Conservation

Course Co-ordinator: Dr Chris Wilcock


This course covers the floristic regions of the world and, in particular, the biogeography of the northern hemisphere. Special emphasis is given to the floras of Europe and the Mediterranean region. Discontinuous plant distributions, localized distributions, and island floras are examined. The origin and evolution of the flora of the Mediterranean region is related to climate change. The course shows how British vegetation can be classified and gives practical experience of identification using the National Vegetation Classification Scheme and MATCH computer programme.

3 lectures per week plus 6 hours per week of field trips, tutorials and fieldwork.

1 two hour examination and continuous assessment.

Ecosystem Processes

Course Co-ordinator: Prof David Robinson


Course Aims: To understand the main biological, chemical and physical processes involved in the conversion of energy and other resources. The emphasis is on being able to relate measurements made at local scales to understand their relevance for global processes.

Content: Primary production (Carbon cycle; Biomes; Scaling from leaf to biome). Water use (Water cycle; Coupling between vegetation and atmosphere; Soil water; Water use efficiency). Soil microbiology & organic matter decomposition (Decomposers; Soil Water use efficiency). Soil Microbiology & organic matter decomposition (decomposers; Soil respiration; Decomposition kinetics; Root-microbe relations). Nutrient acquisition by plants (nutrient demand; Nutrients in soil; Nutrient supply; Soil heterogeneity; Nutrient use efficiency). Secondary production (Grazing effects; Energy and resource flow between trophic levels). Ecosystem sustainability, human impacts and feedbacks.

Lectures, tutorials, laboratory practicals (measuring soil microbial biomass and phosphorus availability).

1 two-hour lecture (67%) and laboratory practical reports (33%).

NB Most of the course runs concurrently with PL3303. Level 5 students receive specialist tutorials in, e.g., applications of stable isotope techniques.

Mycorrhizas and Ecosystem Processes

Course Co-ordinator: Professor Ian Alexander and Dr David Johnson


Aims: To provide a detailed and critical account of mycorrhizal symbioses, rhizosphere biology and the methods available for their investigation, and to examine the potential to manipulate the rhizosphere to meet defined aims in agriculture, forestry, horticulture and land restoration.

Learning Objectives: By the end of the course your should:

1. have an understanding of: mycorrhizas and mycorrhizal fungi; methods of investigation; applications of mycorrhizal research; rhizosphere biology and biotechnology;

2. be able to recognise mycorrhizas; quantify infection; use web-based mycorrhiza databases; measure rhizosphere biodiversity and function;

3. be able to evaluate date from primary sources and relate to practical problems; evaluate the role of molecular biology in soil ecology, relate fundamental underpinning information to applied biology;

4. be able to respond to a call for tender, prepare a consultant's report and defend it.

3 one-hour lectures per week; 4 six-hour practicals; 4 two-hour workshop/tutorial sessions.

Continual assessment based on group report on assignment, lab report, course essay.

Biology & Ecology of Mycorrhizas

Course Co-ordinator: Dr David Johnson, Professor Ian Alexander

Pre-requisite(s): None

Co-requisite(s): None

Introduction to mycorrhiza and mycorrhizal fungi.
Mycorrhizal diversity and ecosystem function are covered with an emphasis on molecular techniques used in research.

3 one-hour lectures per week and 1 three-hour practical

Continuous assessment based on an essay (50%) and practical report (50%), no written examination