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ACE2074 : Soils in Terrestrial Ecosystems

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Yit Arn Teh
  • Lecturer: Dr Julia Cooper
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


To explain the concept of soils as dynamic natural bodies within terrestrial ecosystems and the interaction between soils, vegetation and other environmental variables based on an understanding of the soil processes. This holistic, ecosystem-centred analysis will equip students with the ability to recognise and understand the evolution of soils in selected terrestrial ecosystems internationally and in Britain and to understand the importance of soil in the context of environmental issues.

Outline Of Syllabus

Topics are introduced in the lecture programme, field classes, practicals
where an ecosystem-centred approach to environment, soils and soil forming processes is taken.
Lecture , field classes and practicals will cover
• Introduction to soils within ecosystems; review of key concepts from ACE1008
• Soil physical properties and impacts on the environment; soils and flood management
• Importance of biota in soil development and organic matter accumulation; the soil foodweb concept; soil C sequestration; role of soils in climate change mitigation
• Soil chemical properties, pH, CEC and colloids; importance of soil chemistry in driving plant community structure
• Nutrient cycling in natural and managed ecosystems; risks from human intervention in nutrient cycles
• Soil evolution and plant succession; soil/vegetation chronosequences
• The impact of climate on soils and ecosystems
• Geological factors in soil formation and ecosystem characteristics
• Topographic factors in ecosystem variability and soil formation
• Soil classification
The main ecosystems covered are tropical ecosystems, cool temperate deciduous woodland ecosystems, wetland habitats, peatland habitats, coniferous Boreal forest ecosystems, British heathland ecosystems and their soils, upland moors and mires, agro-ecosystems.
Soil components, processes and concepts are further explored in a linked programme of field trips and
laboratory practicals that develop practical skills and applications covering: environmental analysis,
soil field description and soil sampling methods; soil physical, chemical and biological analytical

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials260:208:40Pre-recorded lecture materials published on the VLE each week.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion145:0045:00Critical Essay (100%)
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading93:0027:00Reading of textbook chapters and peer-reviewed publications
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching91:3013:30Present in person small group tutorials
Guided Independent StudyReflective learning activity60:202:00Online quizzes (formative)
Guided Independent StudyReflective learning activity10:300:30Soil Biology Exercise
Guided Independent StudyReflective learning activity10:200:20Modelling Exercise
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork13:003:00Present in person in the field
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
ACE2063Managing Soils in the Agri-Environment
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures introduce key knowledge and flag the syllabus and appropriate reading.

Seminars allow students to work in groups to understand the functioning of terrestrial biomes and use international soil classification systems to assess global soil resources.

Practicals introduce techniques in soil description and analysis using morphology, and soil physical, biological and chemical laboratory methods; introduce techniques of soil survey; and consolidate learning from lectures by problem solving. They also develop laboratory skills.

Fieldwork serves to integrate the module learning outcomes by providing the opportunity to observe, handle and sample soils from selected terrestrial environments and to complete a soil survey exercise.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M100Essay assessment-must critically analyse a paper from the peer-reviewed literature.
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Computer assessment1MWeekly onlines quizzes for review of lecture and reading materials; guided learning activities on soil biology and modelling.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The continuous assessment tests the students' ability to assimilate and synthesise the broad body of knowledge and understanding developed through the lectures, reading and guided learning activities. It also develops and tests the students' ability to conduct independent research, analyse and constructively criticise the peer-reviewed literature. Development of these higher order skills and knowledge will be supported through the guided learning activities and small group activities, including targeted workshops explicitly designed to develop the students' critical abilities.

Reading Lists