Module Information

Module Identifier
BR21120
Module Title
Climate Change: Plants, Animals and Ecosystems
Academic Year
2016/2017
Co-ordinator
Semester
Semester 1
External Examiners
  • Dr Martin Genner (Senior Lecturer - University of Bristol)
 
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Field Trip 1 x 5 Hour Field Trip
Field Trip 1 x 4 Hour Field Trip
Miscellaneous 5 x 1 Hour Miscellaneous
Practical 5 x 4 Hour Practicals
Lecture 33 x 1 Hour Lectures
 

Assessment

Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Field excursion report  (up to 1200 words)  20%
Semester Assessment Experimental report based on glasshouse study  (up to 2000 words)  40%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   40%
Supplementary Assessment Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  60%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  40%

Learning Outcomes

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

1. Discuss the eco-physiological responses of plants to environmental pollution and climate change factors.

2. Explain how climate change will impact on the soil-root-shoot-herbivore interactions, affecting species, populations and ecosystems at regional, national and global scales.

3. Appreciate the current state of knowledge of the biological and ecological processes that account for observed changes in the geographical range limits of biota.

4. Describe the range of experimental approaches currently employed to estimate the future impact of climate change on species, populations and ecosystems.

Brief description

Climate change is now recognised as one of the major future challenges to global biodiversity. The module describes various future environmental change factors and how plants, animals and ecosystems will be affected. Students will explore the close relationship between the biophysical, physiological and ecological aspects of the adaptation and acclimation of an organism to its environment and how a changing environment can stress and even exclude organisms from particular locations.

We will discuss the plant community, plant-soil and plant-animal interactions and the role of soil as a habitat but also as a store for carbon and for future climate change mitigation. Plant-animal interactions will be explored by looking at direct (particularly temperature) and indirect effects of climate change factors on animal performance (via changes food palatability and digestibility).

The module benefits from laboratory/glasshouse based training plus a one day field tour drawing on ongoing research in this area.

Content

This module will describe and discuss physiological / ecological research showing evidence of shifts in northern or southern range margins of populations of species from a variety of taxa. We will consider organism physiology in detail and phenological studies that have identified change. Students will explore the close relationship between the biophysical, physiological and ecological aspects of the adaptation and acclimation of an organism to its environment and how a changing environment can stress and even exclude organisms from particular locations. This will involve developing a broad understanding of organism physiology to understanding predicted responses including changes in temperature (gradual increase, extreme events), precipitation (drought or waterlogging), direct effects of elevated CO2 and gaseous pollutants .

We will also present examples of earlier emergence or activity of species and associated ecological studies showing asynchrony of herbivore emergence with host plants or progressive predator asynchrony with their prey populations. More complex impacts on interactions will be considered including the soil-root-plant interface using examples from Long Term Ecosystem Research experiments.

The module provides practical laboratory and a field day with a lecture series that integrates the subject matter in logical order. It spans plant-animal interactions and provides a detailed functional understanding about how plants, animals and communities will respond to a wide range of future climate change factors. This will include understanding of plant ecophysiology and growth, soil systems as sources and sinks of atmospheric carbon. It will also explore interactions with animals focussing primarily on invertebrate herbivores.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Collection of data, analysis and interpretation. Employing relational equations representing physiological responses of plants to climate related stresses.
Communication Development of written and verbal expression in the subject assessed by examination and practical assessments.
Improving own Learning and Performance Scholarly review of recent peer-review publications in the topic for practicals, workshops and seminars. Developing learning skills and time management.
Information Technology Word processing, spreadsheet manipulation and presentation of data for assessed work.
Personal Development and Career planning Direct contact with key research and monitoring organizations within the UK.
Problem solving The assessments will require an understanding underlying principles of time-series analysis phenology and climate-ecology models.
Research skills Scholarly review of recent peer-review publications in the topic will be required for examination and practical assessment.
Subject Specific Skills Specific training in plant ecophysiology and classical growth analyses.
Team work Group working in laboratory practicals with data assessed in the practical write ups.

Notes

This module is at CQFW Level 5