Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Vegetation and Ecosystems
Academic Year
Semester 2
Mutually Exclusive
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 3 x 1 hour lectures per week
Practical 2 x 2 hour practicals during semester, duplicated as necessary
Practical 1 x 3 hour practical during semester, quadruplicated


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Ecology practical report.  20%
Semester Exam 1 Hours   Practical Test.  20%
Semester Exam 1.5 Hours   60%
Supplementary Assessment Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  20%
Supplementary Exam 1 Hours   Practical Test.  Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  20%
Supplementary Exam 1.5 Hours   Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  60%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Explain the organisation and function of ecosystems, including trophic levels, the role of soils, biotic interactions and ecosystem energetics,

2. Demonstrate knowledge of the biodiversity of the major groups of land flora, including identification of features of plant specimens relevant to species identification,

3. Discuss basic issues involved in habitat conservation in an informed manner,

4. Demonstrate knowledge of the structure, function and utility to humans of seed plants,

5. Evaluate the ways in which human activity is dependent upon basic ecological principles, and how human activity may disrupt them.

Brief description

The module is an introduction to natural and crop vegetation, in the wider contexts of communities, habitats and global ecology. It is designed to provide basic skills and ecological understanding for students who may seek careers involving ecological surveying or countryside management. At the same time, it will provide a foundation of knowledge for students interested in plant science research or crop improvement.


The module is introduced by the powering of ecosystems by sunlight and green plants. Energy and cycling of resources, from simple primary productivity to the global level, are discussed. The evolution of vegetation as a dominant factor in the history of the biosphere is outlined, leading to consideration of recent climate change as a consequence of human impacts on fossil fuels, and its implications for living vegetation.

Plant forms and physiology are described with particular reference to ecological adaptations, such as specialised photosynthesis, and drought or flooding tolerance. Human exploitation of plants will also be emphasized, including economic (and illicit) crops, biofuels, and their relevance to global sustainability and food security. Genetic modification of crops will be discussed.

The biodiversity of vegetation is reviewed in sufficient detail to provide a basic foundation for ecological surveying skills. The forms and life histories of the major classes of land flora and important seed plant families are outlined. An introduction to important UK habitats and their classification are provided along with an insight into the National Vegetation Classification System, Conservation and Habitat Action Plans. The co evolution of seed plants and their insect or vertebrate pollinators is discussed.

Fundamental principles of ecology are covered. These include the transfer of energy between different trophic levels, and the cycling of nutrients within systems with emphasis on the key role of soils. Arctic tundra as a model plant community is explored in terms of the soil-plant-animal system. Population growth and carrying capacity are discussed, along with competition and predation. Resource utilisation is explored to understand the position of species within ecological systems, generally defined as the niche. Within its distribution a species will often show specific adaptation to particular situations; examples of such ecotypic variation are presented.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number The practical sessions will generate data that students will be expected to present and interpret in their reports
Communication Students will be required to display scientific communication skills in their experimental reports
Improving own Learning and Performance The assignment will involve a formative element in which students are given feedback, and the opportunity to improve their work before it is resubmitted at the end of the module
Information Technology Use of information technology will be required in researching and presenting the experimental reports
Personal Development and Career planning By stressing the significance of plants to humans the module is designed to be directly relevant to many careers. Basic skills needed for certain countryside careers are taught
Problem solving Analysis of data from practical sessions
Research skills The research skills associated with collation and processing of relevant information are developed
Subject Specific Skills The module requires students to develop practical laboratory and fields skills that essential to many biological careers
Team work The practical sessions will involve an element of team work


This module is at CQFW Level 4