APMA96-Plants, Greenspace and Urban Sustainability

Module Provider: School of Agriculture, Policy and Development
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites: Basic understanding of plant functioning OR A level / equivalent Science
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2020/1

Module Convenor: Dr Tijana Blanusa

Email: t.blanusa@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

Plants in towns and cities deliver a range of benefits. Through a series of lectures you will be learning how interventions such as green roofs and walls, urban gardens and street trees contribute to regulating ecosystem services (microclimate modification, flood and noise mitigation, air quality moderation, biodiversity provision). A visit to a roof garden in central Reading should stimulate thinking about what is possible in practice. We will also be discussing issues around urban food production. The module will provide answers on appropriate urban greening interventions needed to improve environmental quality, as well as human health and quality of life.


To provide the student with an overview of the role of green infrastructure in supporting sustainable living in urban environments. Plants in urban setting provide numerous ecosystem services, which will be discussed during the module, but with the focus on regulating and provisioning. Ecosystem issues in developed as well as the developing world will be discussed. Case studies will be used to illustrate our relationship with the urban landscape and wider environmental issues. The module has a strong focus on urban environments and the use of appropriate greening interventions to improve human health and quality of life.

Assessable learning outcomes:

-Identify environmental problems and suggest appropriate design and management interventions in urban landscapes that may help address or mitigate these problems.

-Identify the integral role certain urban greening interventions have in satisfying human nutritional, environmental and welfare needs.

-Critically evaluate terms and concepts associated with the management of the environment - ‘ecosystem services’, ‘green infrastructure’ ‘carbon footprint’ etc.

-Be familiar with the latest research findings associated with one or more of the key subject areas.

Additional outcomes:

Communication and debating skills will be developed in the lectures / seminars. Students should be able to formulate arguments and develop independent thinking.

Outline content:

The module will run over 10 weeks as a series of lectures, seminars and visits covering:

1 Climate change and lifestyle implications 

2 Sustainable landscape management and carbon footprint 

3 Plants for places - physiological adaptation in ornamental and landscape plants to urban stress factors

4 Green roofs / walls and the provision of ecosystem services

5 Allotments and home-grown food 

6 Plants and sust ainable living (biofuels, wood products, waste management) 

7 Urban green-space and environmental modification 

8 Inner-city nature reserves, conservation and biodiversity

9 Health and wellbeing impacts of urban greening

10 Case study discussion and critical evaluation of a recent scientific paper

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

There will be a two-hour lecture slot each week, with one external visit to a green roof garden and a case study discussion seminar. Students will be asked to review both a scientific publication (assigned to them) and a lay article of their choice within the broad subject area of the module.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 16
Seminars 2
External visits 2
Guided independent study: 80
Total hours by term 100
Total hours for module 100

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

Summative assessment- Examinations:

A two-hour examination requiring answer to one question out of three in summer exam.

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Review of a scientific paper assigned to the student, highlighting contribution to understanding within a specialised area. Students will provide critical comment on the content, approaches and conclusions of the paper.

Students are asked to submit a recorded podcast with Powerpoint, which will be marked.

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information: http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/exams/student/exa-guidePG.aspx

Assessment requirements for a pass:
A mark of 50% overall.

Reassessment arrangements:

Re-examination in August.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

1) Required text books: there is no compulsory reading which needs to be purchased (i.e. there is a large number of freely downloadable papers to aid exam preparation). A few books which are on the reading list are available from the University library.

2) Travel, accommodation and subsistence: There is one visit to a green roof locally in Reading; the venue is a walking distance from the University (or a single bus fare)

Last updated: 27 July 2020


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