BSc Geography with International Study / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Green Planet: Plant Ecology and Global Change

Unit code GEOG31041
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Geography
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This unit sits within the subject area of biogeography with a particular focus on plants and vegetation and the role they play in the Earth system. The unit covers essential science in the areas of plant science and ecology but without prerequisite knowledge in this area. The unit explores a range of contemporary issues such as climate change, human impact on the environment, global biogeochemical cycles and conservation. Key topics to be covered include:

  • Origins and evolution of plant life
  • History, concepts and practice of vegetation description
  • Key concepts in vegetation dynamics: resources, stress, competition and disturbance
  • Vegetation-climate feedbacks
  • Photosynthesis and the global carbon cycle
  • Vegetation response to a warming world
  • Conserving the Green Planet


  • to understand the main factors that influence the growth and distribution of plant species at local to global scales
  • to appreciate the role of the biosphere in the shaping of the Earth's climate
  • to explore vegetation-climate interactions at a range of spatial and temporal scales
  • to assess the vulnerability of plants and ecosystems to anthropogenic impacts and climate change
  • to develop awareness of methodological approaches in ecology and biogeography

Teaching and learning methods

The course unit will be delivered via lectures, a field class, seminars, and a museum visit. The lectures will include time for interaction via class discussion, consolidation sessions and revision exercises.
Students are expected to read widely to support the classes and undertake the support activities as
instructed for each class. The fieldclass and seminars are an integral part of the course and students
will be expected to work in small groups to prepare materials for presentation and discussion.
Learning will be supported via the course Blackboard site, which will provide access to course
materials and wider resources in the areas of biogeography and ecology.

Knowledge and understanding

  • have an understanding of the main factors that influence the distribution and composition of vegetation at local to global scales including climate, soils and ecological interactions

Intellectual skills

  • be able to evaluate the implications of climate change for plant diversity and the role of global vegetation in future climate change scenarios
  • be able to assess critically the variety of techniques and information used to study vegetation and vegetation climate interactions, including physiological experiments in controlled environments, observational studies based on long–term data sets, field manipulation experiments, historical records, and modelling

Practical skills

  • have gained practical experience in techniques of research design and data analysis in plant ecology

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 60%
Report 40%

Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided in the following ways during this course unit

  • verbal feedback through discussion and Q&A during and at the end of lectures
  • extensive verbal feedback on any course unit issue through consultation hours or by appointment
  • detailed, constructive written feedback on assessments

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Fieldwork 6
Lectures 18
Seminars 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
William Fletcher Unit coordinator

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