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Module DXX-1001:
Ecosystem Function & Services

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Paula Roberts

Overall aims and purpose

This module will cover aspects of biodiversity, soil science, and matter cycles (water, nutrient and carbon) within an ecosystem context. The processes which define ecosystems will be used to illustrate the services they deliver, particularly biomass and carbon sequestration. The module will give and overview of biodiversity, ecosystem development, soil formation and properties, carbon and nutrient fluxes in ecosystems and plant tolerance to abiotic stress, as well as case studies of a range of ecosystem types.

Course content


  1. Introduction ecosystem concepts and matter flows
  2. Ecosystem services
  3. Ecosystem development
  4. Ecosystem Function & Biodiversity models
  5. Ecosystem productivity
  6. Ecosystem collapse
  7. Climate and microclimate
  8. Soil formation
  9. Soil mineralogy and weathering
  10. Soil organic matter and chemical properties
  11. Ecosystem productivity
  12. Food webs and below-ground biodiversity
  13. Above and below-ground biodiversity
  14. Root processes
  15. Plant water relations
  16. Plant reproduction
  17. Plant structure
  18. Photosynthesis types, pigments, environmental control
  19. Plant stress tolerance I (moisture stress)
  20. Plant stress tolerance II (heat and cold)
  21. Temperate grasslands
  22. Mangroves
  23. Wetlands and salt marshes
  24. Polar ecosystems

Practicals a) Wetland Ecology and GHG b) Soil Field Trip c) Water Quality - Nitrate practical
d) Plant Reproduction / ecophysiology

Assessment Criteria


Grade D- to C+ Understanding of the concepts of ecosystem and their developments, soils and soil properties, and element fluxes in ecosystems.


Grade B- to B+ Good understanding of the concepts of ecosystem and their development, soils and soil properties, and element fluxes in ecosystems. The ability to interlink the ecosystems, soils and element fluxes.


Grade A- and above In depth understanding of the concepts of ecosystem and their development, soils and soil properties, and element fluxes in ecosystems. Understanding of the complexity of ecosystem and how biodiversity, soils and element fluxes determine the properties of ecosystems, as well as and understanding of these in key ecosystems.

Learning outcomes

  1. Understanding of the concept of ecosystems and their dynamic nature.

  2. Understanding of soils and soil development.

  3. Understanding of the process involved in ecosystems carbon fluxes, such as photosynthesis, food webs and decomposition.

  4. Appreciation of the ecosystem function of a number of key ecosystems.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Field (Wetlands C and N diagrams) 15
Lab (Nitrate practical) 15
Lab (Plant reproduction / ecophysiology) 15
Exam 55

Teaching and Learning Strategy


25 * 1 hour lectures (2-3 per week over 10 weeks).


2*3 hour practicals

Private study 161

2*4 hour field visits


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.

Subject specific skills

  • Recognize and apply appropriate theories and concepts from a range of disciplines.
  • Appreciate the interdisciplinary and/or reciprocal nature of relationships within the subject area.
  • Appreciation of the complexity and diversity of processes through the study of relevant systems.
  • Apply subject knowledge to the understanding and addressing of problems.
  • Conduct fieldwork and/or laboratory work competently with awareness of appropriate risk assessment and ethical considerations
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Prepare effective maps, diagrams and visualizations.
  • Undertake field and/or laboratory studies to ensure competence in basic experimental and/or fieldwork skills.
  • Engagement with current subject developments and their application.


Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: