Module DXX-3301:
Forest Ecology

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

10 Credits or 5 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Prof John Healey

Overall aims and purpose

As a policy maker, manager, scientist, practitioner (or indeed informed consumer and voter) you will need to understand the ecology of the natural resources for which you are responsible. Trees are a major component of most terrestrial ecosystem and are important in the habitat of many other species, which will in turn have a major influence on the ecosystem. DXX-3301 begins by addressing the natural variation in forest systems over space and time: the processes that control their structure and composition. How can so many plant species (and their dependent fauna) co-exist in one habitat? How do tree species vary ecologically and what implications does this have for their management? What mammals live in forests; how are they distributed geographically and between habitats; where do they fit in the food web? It examines the global issue of invasive species, with a particular focus on the impacts of invasive plants and mammals in forest habitats. What is the effect of disturbance on forest mammals and what ecologically-based approaches can be taken to the management of invasive species? The module concludes by considering what determines the quality of forests and trees as habitat over different landscape scales, and the implications for habitat and species conservation and restoration. The ecological approach to restoration of forest ecosystems and landscapes is emphasised. A reasonable knowledge of the fundamentals of ecology, plant physiology and animal biology is assumed.

Course content

Lectures and learning seminars: Pattern and process in forests; the ecology of natural and human disturbance. Vegetation succession (mechanisms, models, impact on forest structure and composition, applications). The forest regeneration cycle (especially seed production and dispersal, gap phase, thinning, the regeneration niche). Ecological variation amongst plant species, including: its architectural and ecophysiological basis; response to global and local environmental change; applications to forest management. Forest mammals: geographical and habitat distribution; role in food webs. The global issue of invasive species, focussing on impacts in forest habitats. Disturbance effects on forest mammals; ecologically-based approaches to the management of invasive species. Forests and trees as habitat, their landscape ecology, habitat and species conservation and restoration.

Practicals: Pattern and process in forests, vegetation succession, tree populations and regeneration, application to forest restoration and management; primary succession and its application to the ecological restoration of derelict industrial sites, environmental factors limiting the establishment of vegetation, comparative ecology of tree species and the impact of disturbance.

Assessed seminars: A series of ca. 20 key current questions in forest wildlife conservation/management will be introduced. Each pair of students will pick one question and research, present and discuss their answer in the subsequent assessed seminar.

Assessment Criteria

excellent

Grade A- to A** Very good understanding of the science showing broad comprehension as evidenced by an ability to interpret relevant information critically, to recognise implications, to identify connections with other areas of knowledge and synthesise between them; knowledge spanning a wide range of relevant examples (outcomes 1-5). Able to explain well and critically the strengths and weaknesses of alternative successional models, theories of the maintenance of plant species richness, and theories of the historical role of mammals in British forests/woodlands and the implications of this for their natural condition. Evidence of an ability to plan an ecological/population assessment of a type of vegetation/mammal not previously encountered, and to carry out analysis and interpretation of survey data in the absence of existing literature. Demonstration of excellent understanding of ecological sampling issues including key points for improved field-survey design, application of appropriate data analyses, and insightful conclusions about conservation management of the studied vegetation/mammals. Play a leading role in the group enabling it to complete the field work and analyses in the time allocated. Evidence of considerable effort and thought. Ability to make an excellent presentation visually and verbally (in a group) and in document form (individually) the findings from literature-based research into a forest wildlife conservation/management topic in a form professionally appropriate to a defined stakeholder institution, group or individual (outcome 6).

threshold

Grade D- to D+ Aware of the basic principles underlying the science as outlined in learning outcomes 1 - 5. Basic awareness of how assessment is made in the field of: the structure of forest stands and of tree populations, association between vegetation and environmental variables, and the status of wildlife populations, and of how the resulting data can be analysed and interpreted. Basic competence demonstrated in summarising and interpreting the results of the field practicals. Able to work as a member of a team in carrying out simple field assessment of vegetation and tree and mammal populations. Leading to overall pass level percentage in the module examination. Ability to make an adequate presentation visually and verbally (in a group) and in document form (individually) the findings from literature-based research into a forest wildlife conservation/management topic in a form professionally appropriate to a defined stakeholder institution, group or individual (outcome 6).

good

Grade C- to B+ Better understanding of the principles as evidenced by an ability to explain the major aspects of the science (outcomes 1-5). Ability to distinguish well-founded, and erroneous statements concerning forest ecology, the "natural" status of forests, the dynamic condition of natural forests, the ecological basis for silviculture and the role of mammals in the ecology and management of forests. Ability to explain the major components of current theories concerning vegetation succession, forest dynamics, the maintenance of (plant) species diversity in natural systems; mammalian population biology and forest habitat interactions. Ability to recognise where ecology has been applied successfully, or unsuccessfully, in the management and conservation of forests. Ability to carry out a field assessment within a previously encountered vegetation/mammal type of: the structure of forest stands and of tree populations, association between vegetation and environmental variables, and the status of mammal populations, and of how the resulting data can be analysed and interpreted. Ability to carry out straight-forward analysis and interpretation of resulting data from a vegetation/mammal type already covered well by existing literature. Good understanding demonstrated of issues surrounding sources of error, the design of ecological surveys and their application for conservation management. Play a major role in the group enabling it to complete the field work and analyses to a good standard and on time. Ability to make a good presentation visually and verbally (in a group) and in document form (individually) the findings from literature-based research into a forest wildlife conservation/management topic in a form professionally appropriate to a defined stakeholder institution, group or individual (outcome 6).

Learning outcomes

  1. Make recommendations on the application of forest ecological knowledge to forest and environmental assessment, management, conservation and restoration

  2. Present visually, verbally and in document form the findings from literature-based research into a forest wildlife conservation/management topic in a form professionally appropriate to a defined stakeholder institution, group or individual.

  3. Describe the main processes and mechanisms determining the structure and dynamics of forests

  4. Discuss the impact of mammals and invasive species on woodlands/forests

  5. Understand the effect of woodland/forest management practices on habitats, plant and animal populations, and invasive species

  6. Be able to assess critically the scientific methods used to achieve an understanding of forest dynamics and propose methods that would be suitable in different circumstances

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
GROUP PRESENTATION PRESENTATION ON GROUP RESEARCH ON FOREST WILDLIFE TOPIC 20
REPORT INDIVIDUAL WRITTEN REPORT ON GROUP RESEARCH 20
EXAM WRITTEN EXAMINATION

Answer THREE questions in total: TWO questions from section A and ONE from section B. There are equal marks for each question, so try to spend an equal time on each. Section A covers the lecture syllabus: you will need to choose two from ca. ten questions. Section B covers the practical syllabus: you will need to choose one from ca. three questions.

60

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Hours
Seminar

• The class will divide into eight groups. Each group will select which two sections of the module syllabus it will research in order to make a presentation to the class for discussion and feedback from the module organiser.

• After the overview of each syllabus section, the two groups who will be researching that will select one topic from that section. Before the next class session they will research that topic making use of the Powerpoint presentations and background notes provided on the module Blackboard site and the key research papers cited. All class members are also expected to prepare for the discussion by making a quick overview of the two selected topics and the rest of the section.

• In a seminar in the first hour of the next class session, each of the three groups will have 10 minutes to present the key points that they identified as most important in their topic and to raise any questions about issues which they would like to be clarified. This will leave 10 minutes for discussion and feedback.

8
Lecture

There are nine 2-hour lecture/seminar sessions. The syllabus of the module has been divided into approximately eight equal-sized sections. The content of each will be introduced in ca. 1 hour of lectures (= 8 hours), 1 hour to introduce module, and 1 hour to help preparation for the exam.

10
Study group

Working in groups to research for, discuss and prepare your two formative seminar presentations. Working in groups to research for, discuss and prepare your assessed seminar presentation.

24
Private study

Individual work to study module content available on Blackboard site, write your own summary of each section of the syllabus and read literature relevant to the module - all of this will be important to prepare you for the module exam. Individual work to prepare your individual written report on group research.

41
Fieldwork

Two field practicals each of four hours duration: pattern and process in forests; ecological restoration.

10
Practical classes and workshops

One three-hour lab practical to analyse and interpret data from the field practicals.

3
Seminar

Assessed seminar presentation of group research topics, including questions/answers/discussion after each seminar.

4

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Caring - Showing concern for others; caring for children, people with disabilities and/or the elderly
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills

Ecological assessment methods of forest/woodland tree community structure and composition. Ecological assessment of vegetation naturally established through primary and secondary succession and of site/substrate conditions. Analysis of plot based tree and vegetation inventory data to calculate simple variables of species' abundance (density, dominance (basal area/cover), size class distributions and relationship with site environment. Interpretation of analysed data from ecological assessments to provide evidence for: assessment of site history and current vegetation dynamics; potential factors limiting plant establishment and growth; site and vegetation management to meet restoration or conservation objectives. Critical assessment of outputs of forest ecology research. Synthesis of findings from forest ecology research to address specific questions.

Resources

Resource implications for students

Students need to be equipped with appropriate clothing and footwear for fieldwork in rocky terrain (at low altitude).

Talis Reading list

http://readinglists.bangor.ac.uk/modules/dxx-3301.html

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: