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ACE2074 : Ecosystem Ecology

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • 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 develop an in-depth understanding of:
1. The functioning of terrestrial ecosystems and the factors that underpin ecosystem processes and biogeochemical cycling among biomes.
2. Ecosystems as complex, integrated systems with interactions and interdependencies among their biotic and abiotic components.
3. The role of functional biodiversity in modulating pools and fluxes of the major elements.
4. The role of terrestrial ecosystems in biogeochemical cycling at local, regional and global scales.
5. How external forcings (e.g. climate change, anthropogenic interventions, disturbance) impact ecosystem processes and feedback to influence global biogeochemical cycles.

Outline Of Syllabus

Topics are introduced in lectures and explored in greater depth in tutorials, workshops, practicals and field classes. Key topics include:
• Terrestrial carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycles
• The role of state factors (i.e. time, climate, parent material, topography, biota) in shaping ecosystem structure, function and development through space and time
• Primary production and its controls; introduction to plant physiological ecology and plant-soil interactions
• Soils and sediments; pedogenesis; the surface chemistry of soils and sediments (e.g. ion exchange, adsorption, hydrophobic interactions, points of zero charge, pH, redox potential); the organic chemistry of soils
• Microbial ecology; role of microbes in catalysing key components of the carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycles; rhizosphere processes; mutualisms; role of syntrophy and microbial consortia in metabolism of complex substrates
• Role of trophic processes in regulating ecosystem structure and function
• Effects of climate change and anthropogenic interventions on ecosystem processes and biogeochemical cycling
• Knowledge gaps and unknowns in ecosystem ecology, including critical analysis of the current literature

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00Present in person lectures
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion138:0038:00Short Review Essay (100%)
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials220:3011:00Pre-recorded lecture materials published on the VLE each week
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading101:3015:00Weekly reading of book chapters or journal articles.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical111:0011:00Present in person practicals
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00Present in person small group tutorials
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.

Tutorials allow students to work in groups to understand the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems, read and understand the current literature, analyse data (e.g. interpreting graphs or other data products), or develop their problem solving skills.

Computer practicals develop the students’ numerical and data analysis skills. Laboratory practicals introduce techniques in characterisation of plant and soil samples; physical, chemical and biological techniques for quantifying biogeochemical pools and fluxes, and develop laboratory skills.

Fieldwork serves to integrate the module learning outcomes by providing the opportunity to observe, handle and sample environmental samples from selected terrestrial environments.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M100Students must write a short research essay (1500-2000 words) on a current issue in ecosystem ecology
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The continuous assessment tests the students' ability to conduct independent research, 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 analyse and assess the peer-reviewed literature, identifying major knowledge gaps and the limitations of the current research. 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