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:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Prof Frank Mayle

Email: f.mayle@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

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 is a 10 credit module, which means that it is intended to occupy you for 100 hours of work: attending lectures; background reading; taking part in the practical class; interpreting the practical results; writing up the practical including associated reading; and revision and sitting the examination. With that in mind, the kind of workload you should expect might be as follows:

  • 19 contact hours in formal teaching sessions

  • 65 hours engaged in background reading for lectures and coursework essay

  • 1 hour Revision class

  • 13.5 hours Revision

  • 2 hours Examination (Summer Term)


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:

Seventeen hours of lectures and a practical

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 19
Guided independent study 81
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

2.0 hours

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:

Assessment requirements for a pass:
A mark of 40% overall

Reassessment arrangements:

Re-examination 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: 1 October 2018


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