Module Identifier BS23420  
Academic Year 2003/2004  
Co-ordinator Dr Gareth W Griffith  
Semester Semester 2  
Other staff Dr John Scullion, Dr Lesley N Manchester, William A Adams  
Course delivery Lecture   30 Hours  
  Practical   18 Hours (6 x 3 hours)  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Exam3 Hours One 3-hour theory paper  70%
Semester Assessment Practical Exercise: Continuous assessment of practicals  30%
Supplementary Assessment3 Hours One 3-hour theory paper (plus resubmission of failed coursework or an alternative)   

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:
On completion of the course, students will


To develop an understanding of soils as an environment for living organisms ranging from microorganisms and soil animals to plants. Students will learn how the soil environment varies and about the diversity of organisms that live in soils and the processes that they carry out. Emphasis is placed on the process of decomposition and the cycling of nutrients at various spatial scales. The role of fungi, soil animals and bacteria in decomposition is highlighted. This module provides an insight into soil as a living and dynamic entity upon which we all depend not only for food but also for sustaining the world'r diversity of natural flora and fauna.


The inorganic and organic constituents of which soils are formed will be outlined.
The dynamic nature of soil organic matter will be explained and the range of soil organisms described. The turnover of carbon, nitrogen and other nutrients will be described as an essential component of soils as a self-sustaining environment. Methods for quantifying decomposer activity and for identifying the organisms involved in these processes will be described. Symbiotic and antagonistic interactions between microbes and plants will be explained. Essential plant nutrients will be outlined and also the main processes affecting their availability to plants. Various soil conditions causing plant stress will be explored including drought, waterlogging, salinity, acidity and heavy metal toxicity. The concept of soil fertility will be introduced and its relationship with soil productivity, nutrient status and sustainability explained. A series of laboratory practical classes will be linked directly to the lecture course and reinforce certain aspects of soil biology and plant nutrition.

Reading Lists

** Recommended Text
Marschner, H. (1995) Mineral Nutrition of Higher Plants Academic Press
Swift, M.J., Heal, O.W. & Anderson, J.M. (1979) Decomposition in Terrestrial Ecosystems Blackwell Scientific


This module is at CQFW Level 5