Marine Ecosystems & Processes
Marine Ecosystems and Processes 2023-24
School of Ocean Sciences
Module - Semester 2
The module takes as an over-arching theme the concepts of ecosystem functioning and ecosystem services. It commences with 5 introductory lectures that illustrate the factors that underpin ecosystem functioning, as well as factors that can cause ecosystems to change. The key corner-stones that underpin ecosystem processes are detailed. A particular focus is made on exploring the role of biodiversity in maintaining ecosystem functions and services. Drivers of ecosystem change and resistance to change are considered in the contexts of ecosystem resilience, system vulnerability and ecosystem regime-shifts. The role of biodiversity in maintaining resilience in marine systems is examined. Factors that determine secondary production of systems are considered, with particular focus on fisheries, marie vertebrates, zooplankton and marine benthos.
The practical shapes of ecosystem functioning, services, resilience and vulnerability are then illustrated by a series of lectures that consider the biology, ecology and conservational status of key ecosystems in detail. Systems for which particular focus is made are: estuaries, mangroves, coral reefs, coastal shelf seas, seabirds, pelagic systems and the open ocean.
The module also has emphasis on reviewing the influences of some of the most important current drivers of change in marine ecosystems (‘Global Impacts’). Six dedicated lectures examine the effects of invasive species, climate change, benthic exploration and fisheries disturbance on the functioning of marine ecosystems.
The course includes a marked course-work component. The practical component focuses on examining how guilds of coral reef fishes interact with coral reef structure. This component has particular emphasis on how functional diversity of coral reefs affect the traits of reef fishes. In the first practical session, students are asked to process an existing dataset, using R Statistics. I the second session, students progress to analyse the data and present it graphically. Students then, individually, produce a poster for assessment, from where two continuous-assessment marks arise; one poster mark arises from presenting the poster in a poster conference; the other mark is allocated to the quality of the poster itself (content, structure, design, appearance).
- Students will be able to integrate systems ecology with systems processes
- Students will demonstrate a good knowledge of the key environmental and biological drivers that affect marine processes and ecosystem functioninng, and the relevant temporal and spatial scale at which these operate
- Students will demonstrate a good knowledge of the specific processes that relate to each of key marine systems addressed in the course
- Students will demonstrate an in-depth understanding of how biodiversity contributes to the resilience and regime shifts of marine systems, and appreciate the importance of functional diversity on ecosystem functioning.
- Students will have the ability to make and present a conference poster that conveys, simply and clearly, the results of a piece of research
- Students will have the ability to process, analyse and present a large dataset.