Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

Module Identifier
Module Title
Global Ecology and Soil Systems
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 22 x 1 Hour Lectures


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 1.5 Hours   Examination consisting of short questions.  100%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   100%

Learning Outcomes

On sucessful completion of this module, students should be able to demonstrate knowledge of :-

  • the basic processes of ecological diversification, ecological change, soil formation and soil distribution
  • the inter-relationships between soil and the biosphere
  • the interactions between the biosphere, soils, climate and human population pressures at a global scale


The aim of this module is to provide students with a broad understanding of the interactions among ecosystems, soils and the physical and human environments. Specifically, it aims (1) to examine the origins of global biodiversity, and the current catastrophic rates of extinction caused by humans; (2) to show how ecosystems respond to intermediate and long-term environmental change; (3) to demonstrate the process of soil formation in arctic, temperate and tropical environments; and (4) to introduce some current aspects of applied soil science.


This module consists of two distinct but inter-related components, both of which are designed to provide a foundation for more detailed consideration of related topics covered by Level 2 and 3 modules (eg Dynamic Biogeography; Reading the Ice Age Record; Environmental History of the last 18,000 Years; Pure and Applied Pedology; Soil, Geochemistry and Environment; Practical Pedology). The module also relates to other Level 1 modules offered by the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences because ecological and soil systems are influenced by, and have important effects on, the Earth's climate, hydrology, glaciers, and associated erosional and weathering processes.

Global Ecology, taught by Dr. Williams, addresses three main themes. The first examines the astonishing biodiversity of the Earth, especially in the tropics. An understanding of the origin and maintenance of biodiversity can be gained by looking at the biogeography of islands, which also exemplify the catastrophic effects of human intervention. The second theme, The Dynamic Biosphere, examines ecological change over intermediate timescales, such as how vegetation and soils interact on newly-formed terrain following ice retreat, or how forests benefit from recurrent natural fires. We also examine the extent to which a knowledge of past variations in plant and animal ranges aids prediction of the biological consequences of global warming. The Ice-Age Biosphere is the third theme, including the extinctions of large mammals at the close of the Pleistocene, and the evidence for climatic and anthropogenic effects on the biosphere during the last 10,000 years.

Soil Systems, the second component of the module, is taught by Dr. Abrahams. This part of the course examines soil constituents, the factors of soil formation, soil processes such as leaching and podzolisation and the variety of world soils, focusing on soils of the tropics. Applied aspects of soil science are emphasised throughout, and the module concludes with a consideration of soil erosion and/or aspects of soil geochemistry.


This module is at CQFW Level 4