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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 Lars Markesteijn

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

Lectures 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 belowground biodiversity 13. Above and belowground 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

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
Prac 1 - Field (Wetlands) 15
Prac 2 - Field (Soils) 15
Prac 3 - Lab (Plants) 15
Exam 55

Teaching and Learning Strategy


27 * 1 hour lectures (2-3 per week over 12 weeks).


4*4 hour practicals

Private study

Private and guided self-study


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
  • 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

  • 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.
  • Collect and record data generated by a diverse range of methods.


Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: