Skip to main content

Unit information: Environmental Systems and Ecosystem Services in 2015/16

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Environmental Systems and Ecosystem Services
Unit code CENGM0020
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Howden
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Civil Engineering
Faculty Faculty of Engineering


In this unit students will learn the basics of ecology. In particular, they will examine ecosystems and the place of humans within them. Further, they will investigate the way that the environment meets human needs (ecosystem services) and the effects that humans have on the ecosystems.

The unit covers: the concept of ecosystems (including trophic levels, energy movement and nutrient cycles); resource evaluation, classification and sustainable use; examples of human impact on the environment (eg agriculture, urbanisation) set in the context of population and economic growth; the case for conservation of biodiversity and natural resources.

This unit will be taught by leading practitioners in the areas of ecology and environmental management.

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of this unit successful students will be able to:

O1.1 define and explain basic terms in ecology, such as taxon, biome, succession, biodiversity;

O1.2 describe and discuss environmental systems; in particular, ecosystems, nutrient cycles, resources and human impact on the global environment;

O1.3 examine the working of these systems and apply the results of this examination to make technical and management decisions;

O1.4 critically review international, national and organisational policies with respect to sustainable development;

Teaching details

The teaching in this unit comprises formal lectures, seminars, group work and field trips.

Assessment Details

This unit will be assessed (70%) by coursework (a 3000-5000 word assignment relating to part of the unit, but which requires further reading and research), and (30%) by in-unit tasks (field notes, group presentation). Formative assessment/feedback is also provided throughout the unit from group work, presentations and marking of field notes.

Reading and References

Smith, P (coming in 2013) Indicator Plants

Simmons, I.G. (2001) An Environmental History of Great Britain: from 10,000 years ago to the present. Edinburgh University Press, 0748612831

Sutherland, W.J. and Hill, D.A. (1995) Managing Habitats for Conservation. Cambridge University Press, 0521447763

Hill, M.O., Preston, C.D. and Roy, D.B. (2004) Plantatt: Attributes of British and Irish Plants: Status, life history, geography and habitats. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, 1870393740

Kruckberg, A.R. (2004) Geology and Plant Life: The effects of landforms and rock types on plants. University of Washington press, 029598452X

Begon, M. C.R. Townsend, J.L. Harper (2006) Ecology: From individuals to ecosystems (4th Edition) Blackwell, 1405111178