GV1BGE-Biogeography and Ecology

Module Provider: Geography and Environmental Science
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Prof Frank Mayle

Email: f.mayle@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
This introductory module explores the relationship between plants and animals and their living and physical environment (ecology), as well as their patterns of geographic distribution across the globe (biogeography). These themes are considered over a range of temporal (past, present, future) and spatial (local, regional, global) scales.

This module is designed to provide an introduction to the key concepts, theories, terminology, and debates within the related fields of biogeography and ecology.

Assessable learning outcomes:
On completion of this module, it is expected that students will:
• Be familiar with the key terms, definitions, and concepts that underpin biogeography and ecology
• Understand the role of energy flows and biogeochemical cycling within ecosystems
• Understand how physical (e.g. light, temperature, moisture, soils) and biological (e.g. predation, competition) factors control the distribution of, and interaction between, plants and animals across space and time
• Understand the hierarchical relationship between i) individuals, populations, communities, ecosystems, and biomes, and ii) species, genera, families
• Be familiar with the major biomes across the planet
• Understand the concept of biodiversity, how it is measured, and how/why it varies across the globe
• Understand how past geological, climatic, and evolutionary processes have shaped current biogeographical patterns
• Understand the central importance of spatial and temporal scale in biogeography and ecology
• Appreciate how ecological and biogeographical theory can inform conservation policy and strategy in the context of present and future threats such as deforestation, biodiversity loss, and global warming

Additional outcomes:
• Develop skills of critical thinking/analysis and expression of ideas and arguments via reading of published literature/books, group discussions and debates, essay writing
• Development of IT skills – library databases, internet searching etc.

Outline content:
The following key themes and concepts will be covered in lectures, drawing upon case studies from across the world: energy flows, trophic levels and biogeochemical cycles; physical parameters that control distribution of organisms – temperature, light, moisture, soils; biological factors that influence organisms – competition, predation; key ecological and biogeographical concepts and theories – evolution/speciation, dispersal, vicariance, allopatry, succession, disturbance; hierarchy of ecological systems – population, community, ecosystem, biome; understanding the recent and geological past to explain current patterns of distribution – plate tectonics, climate change, evolution; island biogeography; biodiversity – patterns, gradients, controls; principles and applications of palaeoecology – relevance to ecological theory and conservation policy; natural versus anthropogenic ecosystem disturbance; conservation challenges – sustainability, REDD, ecosystem services; threat of global warming.
Students will be expected to follow up the lectures with their own reading, using both conventional and internet sources.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
Twenty hours of lectures.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Guided independent study 80
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 70
Written assignment including essay 30

Other information on summative assessment:
Students will submit a 1500 word practical report and sit a 1.5 hour exam

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:

The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.
  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:
    One and a half hours

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Re-examination or resubmission of coursework in August/September

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 31 March 2017

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