BSc Biology

Year of entry: 2024

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

Course unit fact file
Unit code GEOG31041
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
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 online lectures, accompanying online support materials, in-person discussion seminars, a museum visit and a field class.


Throughout the semester, the weekly activities will be split between online delivery (video lecture segments, online resources, task sheet activities – equivalent to 2 hours contact per week) and face-to-face discussion seminars (1 hour per week). Instructions and guidance for independent study beyond these hours will be delivered both online in Blackboard and discussed in the seminars.


The timetabled sessions will include:

1) Online lectures (equivalent to 2 hours). Students will be free to work through video recordings, readings, and other resources in Blackboard (quizzes and task sheets) at their own pace. In many weeks, tasks will be set to be completed for the discussion seminar – sometimes this will include individual reading and writing assignments and in others there will be team-based work to be delivered in the seminar.

2) Discussion seminars, synchronous (1 hour) – a synchronous discussion-oriented class will be held on campus.  Time during the seminars will also be dedicated to preparation, guidance and formative feedback for the assessments.

3) a visit to the Manchester Museum to the Herbarium and Fossils gallery

4) a local half-day fieldtrip to learn about current issues in biogeography, ecology and conservation in the Manchester area


Students are expected to read widely to support their learning and undertake the support activities as
instructed for each class. The fieldclass, Museum visit 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.


Knowledge and understanding

  • Discuss 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

· present a research proposal and justify a programme of research design and data analysis in plant ecology

· exercise and refine skills in in bibliographic researching

· hone their skills in developing and maintaining a convincing line of written argument for a well-  defined topic of their choice

· present a research proposal and justify a programme of research design and data analysis in plant ecology

· exercise and refine skills in in bibliographic researching

· hone their skills in developing and maintaining a convincing line of written argument for a well-defined topic of their choice

Transferable skills and personal qualities

· improve verbal communication and writing skills

· practice cooperative learning in discussion classes

· improve time management and independent study skills

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
Polyanna Da Conceicao Bispo Unit coordinator
William Fletcher Unit coordinator

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