ACE2074 : Soils in Terrestrial Ecosystems

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 in Britain and to understand the importance of soil in the context of environmental issues. The module will provide training in soil and ecosystem survey in the field and in determination of soil characteristics in the laboratory.

Outline Of Syllabus

Topics are introduced in the lecture programme (15 lectures), field classes (1), practicals (3)
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, field description of soils and mapping
The main ecosystems covered are 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
techniques; soil survey methods; and soil map interpretation.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion110:0010:00Oral Presentation preparation
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion161:0016:00Practical and field class report
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion140:307:00Revision for exam
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture141:0014:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical33:009:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching13:003:00Oral presentation
Guided Independent StudyReflective learning activity141:0014:00Lecture follow up
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork18:008:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study191:0019:00Independent study and guided reading
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
ACE2063Managing Soils in Agricultural Systems
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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation151M25Group seminar presentation on an aspect of global soil resources and environmental/ecological issues
Written Examination901A50Mixture of question types including one essay type question
Exam Pairings
Module Code Module Title Semester Comment
ACE2063Managing Soils in Agricultural Systems1N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report1M25Practical lab report on field work and suitability assessment. 1000 words excluding tables & figures
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The examination tests the assimilation of a broad body of knowledge and understanding. The report tests the acquisition of basic field skills and application to a real-world challenge in land management decision making. The oral presentation tests the ability to research a body of information about soils and environmental/ecological issues in a global context in a critical way, using library and skills to present a reasoned argument.

Reading Lists