APS 124 Ecosystems, Climate and Environmental Change

Level 1
Semester 2A
Credits 10
Teaching Staff Professor Gareth Phoenix, Dr Tom Webb
Co-ordinator Professor Gareth Phoenix


This course provides an introduction to ecosystems, their development and processes, and their responses to, and effects on global environmental change. It examines a range of ecosystems and their ecology and interactions with important global 'issues', including increasing CO2, global warming, pollution, and extreme climatic events. Prediction of likely responses of ecosystems to global environmental change is also explored along with how ecosystems can feed back to the global climate. Responses are covered at a range of scales from whole ecosystem (e.g. carbon balance, biodiversity) to species level responses (e.g. range shifts and adaptations). The course also examines in more detail some of the key ecosystems in Britain, particularly deciduous woodland, wetland, moorland and grassland systems. It considers the development of these ecosystems during the changing climate of the post-glacial period, thereby linking their past and present status with current concerns about global environmental change. It considers how these ecosystems 'work' ecologically, and uses each as exemplary illustrations of key ecological concepts: e.g. controls on species composition by environmental factors and community processes; community interactions; nutrient cycling; succession.

Aims and Objectives

This course aims to provide a broad understanding of ecosystem processes world wide and the importance of global environmental change. It also aims to provide an introduction to major British ecosystems and to the environmental factors that control their characteristics and distribution. By the end of the unit students will be able to describe the components and properties of simple to complex ecosystems; understand the relationships between the geographical distributions of different terrestrial ecosystems and climate and soils; understand how global environmental change (including climate and pollution) influence ecosystems and also how ecosystems influence global change -especially green house gas emissions. Students will also understand predictions, and the uncertainty in those predictions, of future environmental change and its impacts. Additionally, students will demonstrate the pattern of post-glacial ecosystem development in Britain, identify the main community processes in vegetation, understand successional processes, and identify some of the main reasons for variation in species richness and composition.

Delivery Method: Lectures and Practicals

Assessment Method: 2 hour, multiple-choice examination
You are required to take the on-line self assessment test for APS124.

Feedback: The online self-assessment test provides an opportunity for feedback on your understanding of the module. You will also receive feedback on your performance in different sections of the multiple choice examination after the marks have been released.

Please go to Blackboard for further information for APS 124

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