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Module BNS-3003:
Freshwater Ecosystems 2

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Nathalie Fenner

Overall aims and purpose

This module is designed to provide graduates with some of the theory and practical skills required for research and employment in the field of freshwater ecosystems, for which there is a particular demand in the region.

  1. Drawing heavily on the expertise of professionals from not only within the University but from outside agencies (e.g. Natural Resources Wales(NRW) local consultancies), and taking advantage of the spectacular abundance and diversity of freshwater habitats in North Wales, this module will introduce students to streams and rivers to ponds, lakes and wetlands.

  2. Through field work and practical classes, students will gain an appreciation of the types of approaches, techniques and analytical tools employed by researchers and managers of lakes, rivers and wetlands.

  3. Students will consider the formation of freshwater systems, the chemical and physical factors of importance and how these affect the biological communities within and beyond them. Relationships between the different components of freshwater ecosystems will be explored. Different methods of classifying water bodies will be examined.

  4. We will explore the consequences of human impacts on fresh waters for biodiversity, the environment and the future. We will consider some of the conflicts between exploitation of resources by humans and conservation. We will look at fisheries and fish stock assessment in fresh waters, at pollution, habitat disturbance and destruction, and also consider the creation of fresh water bodies.

  5. We will examine different approaches to conservation in freshwater systems, and consider the context in which decisions must be made. Students will also be encouraged to consider how results can be tailored for different purposes, ecosystem goods and services (EG&S) or different target audiences.

Course content

Introduction to freshwater ecosystems. Habitat type: Plants & algae, physical & chemical characteristics, geomorphology/hydrology & structure of freshwater ecosystems. Classification of lakes, rivers & wetlands. Freshwater communities & relationships Human impacts on freshwaters & approaches to conservation & restoration. Fisheries ecology, life assessment and management & fisheries economics. Ecosystem services and their management.

Assessment Criteria


Awareness of the fundamentals underlying the science as outlined in learning outcomes 1-7, based on lecture material and practical sessions, but with limited or absent analytical ability. Equivalent category CNS general marking criteria: D- (42%) to D+ (48%)


A good grasp of the fundamentals and demonstration of critical thought with evidence of additional reading. An ability to present a coherent argument with clarity. A good appreciation of the main approaches which might be employed in studying fresh water ecosystems and the ability to critically assess their suitability in a given situation.

Equivalent category CNS general marking criteria: B- (62%) to B+ (68%)


An excellent grasp of the fundamentals of the science (as in learning outcomes 1-7) and demonstration of the ability to analyse, critically assess and clearly construct a reasoned argument based on information from a variety of sources.

Equivalent category CNS general marking criteria: A- (74%) to A* (95%)

Learning outcomes

  1. Understand the relationships between chemical, physical and biological components of these systems.

  2. Describe the techniques which might be involved in the study of aquatic ecosystems, and demonstrate an appreciation of the complexities of conducting field and laboratory work, with due consideration to logistical planning, time management, team work, interpersonal skills, and safety considerations.

  3. Demonstrate knowledge of actual and potential human impacts on freshwaters and their Ecosystem Goods & Services (EG&S), but understand the available options for conservation and management of fresh water ecosystems and the context in which any decisions must be made.

  4. Demonstrate the ability to think critically and apply a problem-solving approach (identifying hypotheses, considering options, drawing conclusions from data and considering implications of these conclusions) when presented with a hypothetical or real scenario based on a freshwater ecosystem.

  5. Demonstrate the skills necessary for self-managed and lifelong learning (undertaking directed reading, time management, working to a deadline)

  6. Describe the main processes and mechanisms which lead to the formation of fresh water ecosystems.

  7. Distinguish between different freshwater systems and describe their main features.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
REPORT Fish Growth Practical

10 questions (5 marks each)

EXAM End Module Exam

Students select one (unseen) essay question to answer from known topics plus 5 short answer questions (5 marks each).


Teaching and Learning Strategy


1) Approx. 18hr of lectures (dependent on availability of guest lecturers etc.), indicative content includes case studies & guest lectures relating to current research and management in freshwater ecosystems, plus interactive sessions where students participate in full class discussion, allowing feedback on their understanding of the material covered to date. Example content includes: a. Case studies relating to current research and management in freshwater ecosystems, integrating theory (including that learnt in lectures & practicals) and practice (examples in the field). b. practical briefing/preparation. c. debrief/interactive sessions to deal with queries on practicals & completion of the assessment. d. external guest lectures (e.g. from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) &/ or APEM Ltd (consultants) e. 1 x 2 h revision & feedback session to prepare for exams.


Approx. 2 field trips (day or half day) &/or practicals (day or half day) where students will experience, for example, conservation measures on the ground and/or contemporary management methodology. Dependent on availability of sites/weather etc.

Private study

All taught elements should be supported with private study. Online support for the module will be provided via Blackboard, which will supply reference material, links to online resources, guidelines for completing assessments etc. Students will have access to external resources from, for example NRW and consultancy firms (e.g. APEM Ltd) linking content to employability.


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

  • Develop and identify research question(s) and/or hypotheses as the basis for investigation.
  • Conduct fieldwork and/or laboratory work competently with awareness of appropriate risk assessment and ethical considerations
  • Recognize and apply appropriate theories and concepts from a range of disciplines.
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Apply subject knowledge to the understanding and addressing of problems.
  • Collect, analyse and interpret primary and/or secondary data using appropriate qualitative and/or quantitative techniques.
  • Awareness of the concepts of spatial and temporal scale in understanding processes and relationships.
  • Appreciation of the reciprocal nature of human-environmental relationships.
  • Apply appropriate techniques for presenting spatial and/or temporal trends in data.
  • Preparation of effective maps, diagrams and visualizations.
  • Engagement with current developments in the biosciences and their application.
  • Appreciation of the complexity and diversity of life processes through the study of organisms.
  • Engage in debate and/or discussion with specialists and non-specialists using appropriate language.
  • Undertake field and/or laboratory studies of living systems.
  • Undertake practical work to ensure competence in basic experimental skills.
  • Understand the provisional nature of information and appreciate competing and alternative explanations.
  • Recognize the moral, ethical and social issues relating to the subject.
  • Collect and record data generated by a diverse range of methods.
  • Demonstrate awareness of the importance of risk assessment and relevant legislation


Resource implications for students


Talis Reading list

Reading list

Extensive suggestions for useful reading material etc. will be provided on the Blackboard site (e.g. as PDFs) for the module because research papers rather than text books are required. The following textbook however would be useful to consult: Stream Ecology. Structure and function of running waters. Authors: Allan, J. David, Castillo, MarĂ­a M.

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: