BSc Geography

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Environmental Restoration

Course unit fact file
Unit code GEOG32022
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Geography
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Anthropogenic activities have profoundly altered environments and ecosystems at all scales from local to global, and the human aspiration to live sustainably has led to attempts to more effectively manage environments and ecosystems to prevent future degradation. Crucially however, there is now clear recognition that we also require active restoration of damaged environments and ecosystems to provide greater resilience to climate and biodiversity change and associated environmental pressures such as increased flood frequency, water resource availability, food security etc. Environmental Restoration can be defined as the process of assisting the recovery of an environment or ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged or destroyed, and as a term is often used interchangeably with Ecological Restoration. Physical geographers are increasingly focusing on environmental restoration as a practical application of our knowledge of earth surface processes and environmental change, for example through advising environmental managers on river restoration or coastal management schemes for flood defence. This course reviews the principles and concepts of environmental restoration before critically evaluating a range of examples, focusing throughout on the science that underpins and informs restoration interventions. 


  • To review the principles and concepts of environmental (and ecological) restoration
  • To explore a range of examples of environmental restoration, including river restoration, ecosystem recovery from air pollution and acid rain, peatland restoration, natural flood management, and landscape scale-rewilding.
  • To gain a scientifically grounded understanding of the strategies and techniques used to restore degraded or damaged environments.
  • To critically examine the role of environmental and ecological restoration for environmental management at a range of scales. 

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course you should:

  • Have detailed understanding of the key principles and concepts of environmental and ecological restoration
  • Be familiar with a wide range of practical examples of environmental restoration and be able to critically evaluate their value in terms of ecosystem services
  • Appreciate the hydrological, geomorphological and ecological processes underpinning the science of environmental restoration
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses of environmental restoration schemes
  • Understand the wider role of environmental restoration in environmental management. 



Just what do we mean by restoration? Environments and ecosystems, structure and function

Identifying key concepts in environmental restoration


River restoration

Fieldtrip preparation


Field trip  (Peak District peatland restoration / River Medlock river restoration)


Peatland restoration

Restoration trajectories in peatland systems


Long term restoration: ecosystem recovery from acid rain



Study week


Restoring the functions of coastal systems



Restoration and environmental policy

Rewilding debate setup


Study week


Rewilding debate

Rewilding debate debrief


Working with natural processes: environmental restoration and natural flood management

Natural flood management


Monitoring: evaluating the outcomes and trajectories of environmental restoration

Revision session


Teaching and learning methods

The core of the course is delivered through a series of two hour flexible sessions and one hour support/seminar sessions, but will also include other teaching types specifically:  a fieldclass to visit one or two environmental restoration projects; a class debate over rewilding as a strategy for ecological restoration at a landscape scale. The sessions will be supported by online material (including blackboard), directed reading and practical assignments.


Students are expected to read widely to support these classes, and fully participate in the ‘non-standard’ classes including the class debate and fieldclass. 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

During this course you will be encouraged to develop the following abilities and skills:


  • Application of physical geography understanding of earth surface process and environmental change to applied environmental management
  • Skills in data collation, evaluation and synthesis from a variety of sources
  • Ability to communicate technical data to a wide range of audience and in both written and oral form
  • Evaluation of scientific evidence and outputs

Assessment methods

The course will be assessed on the basis of:

·         A 3000 word individual coursework project (50%) focusing on an environmental restoration case study

·         A 2-hour essay exam (50%), including a compulsory question based on material covered during the rewilding debate. 

Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided in the following ways:

  • Verbal feedback through Q&A during the lecture classes
  • Verbal feedback on course unit issues through consultation hours
  • Verbal feedback on initial coursework preparation through the class debate de-brief
  • Detailed written feedback on coursework assignment

Recommended reading

Woodworth, P. (2013) Our Once and Future Planet: Restoring the World in the Climate Change Century. University of Chicago Press: London, 515pp.

Not a purely academic text, but an accessible exploration of environmental restoration by a journalist. Some very well presented material introducing the field, incorporating both key concepts and some engaging case studies. Well worth dipping in to for a wider perspective. If you want to know the field is all about, start with this!


Clewell, A.F. & Aronson, J. (2013) Ecological Restoration: Principles, Values and Structure of an Emerging Profession. Island Press: London, 303pp.

Nice textbook from the Society for Ecological Restoration, particularly strong on concepts and theoretical considerations but easy to follow.


Perry, M.R. & Davy, A.J. (Eds) (2002) Handbook of Ecological Restoration Volume 1: Principles of Restoration. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 444pp.

Perry, M.R. & Davy, A.J. (Eds) (2002) Handbook of Ecological Restoration Volume 2: Restoration in Practice.  Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 444pp.

These edited volumes are getting a little long in the tooth, but represent a comprehensive snapshot of the principles and application of environmental restoration at the turn of the new century.  Still lots of relevant material in these volumes.


Key journals more specific readings during the course will come from include: Ecological Restoration, Journal of Environmental Management, Science of the Total Environment, Landscape Research, Journal of Applied Ecology, Journal of Hydrology, Ecological Engineering, Restoration Ecology.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 24
Seminars 12
Independent study hours
Independent study 164

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Timothy Allott Unit coordinator

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