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Module DXX-3212:
Forest Ecosystems

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

10 Credits or 5 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Andy Smith

Overall aims and purpose

This module covers the concepts of forest ecosystem stability and destabilisation through anthropogenic perturbations. The module will provide an opportunity to learn and discuss current concepts of interactions between forest and air pollutants and the effects of global climate change. This will be taught within the concepts of a process hierarchy providing an understanding from organismal to ecosystem scales. The stability of ecosystems in relation to stand structure, ecosystem function, and genetic diversity will be addressed.

Course content

The module is based on a series of lectures and seminars. The lectures provide a conceptual background and overview. The seminars are conducted by groups of students and provide an opportunity for in-depth study and discussion. Seminars are based on research papers which are critically reviewed and presented by a group of students in the class. The lecturer provides a platform for understanding the topic area and provokes discussion about the background of the paper, assumptions, weaknesses, and politics eg. Why did the author write that?

Lecture Topics

  1. Ecosystem Theory
  2. Ecosystem Processes
  3. Warming
  4. Fire
  5. Ozone
  6. CO2
  7. Soil Acidification
  8. Nitrogen Deposition
  9. Genetic Diversity
  10. Tropical Forests

Assessment Criteria


Grade D- to D+ A basic understanding of: • Concepts of forest ecosystem stability. • Cellular, tree and stand level effects of environmental stress. • Stand structure and environmental interactions. • Genetic diversity and forest ecosystems.


Grade C- to B+ An understanding of: • Concepts of forest ecosystem stability. • Environmental stress at cellular, tree and stand levels. • The impact of stand structure on element budgets, and habitat provision. • Genetic diversity and forest ecosystems in relation to changes in the environment.


Grade A- to A** An advanced understanding of: • Concepts of forest ecosystem stability in terms of process hierarchy. • Environmental stress at cellular, tree and stand levels. • The impact of stand structure on element budgets, and habitat provision. • The impact of atmospheric pollution on forest biogeochemistry. • Implications of forest structure and diversity for ecosystem stability. • Conservation of habitats in relation to changes in the environment.

Learning outcomes

  1. Understand the importance of genetic diversity in ecosystem stability.

  2. Be able to discuss biogeochemistry and ecosystem concepts.

  3. Have an understanding of complex systems.

  4. Understand concepts of ecosystem stability.

  5. Understand the destabilisation effects of environmental pollutants.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Presentation (in class) 20
Examination 80

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Lecture 16
Private study 74
Fieldwork 3

Presentation and critical analysis of manuscripts


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.
  • Recognize and apply appropriate theories and concepts from a range of disciplines.
  • Apply subject knowledge to the understanding and addressing of problems.
  • 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


Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: