Plant Biology and Ecosystems

The details
Life Sciences (School of)
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 4
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
02 August 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BSC C100 Biological Sciences,
BSC C101 Biological Sciences (Including Year Abroad),
BSC C102 Biological Sciences (Including Placement Year),
BSC CD00 Biological Sciences (Including Foundation Year),
BSC C520 Ecology and Environmental Biology,
BSC C521 Ecology and Environmental Biology (Including Foundation Year),
BSC C522 Ecology and Environmental Biology (Including Year Abroad),
BSC C523 Ecology and Environmental Biology (Including Placement Year),
BSC C161 Marine Biology (Including Foundation Year),
BSC C164 Marine Biology,
BSC CC60 Marine Biology (Including Year Abroad),
BSC CC64 Marine Biology (Including Placement Year),
BSC C110 Biotechnology,
BSC C111 Biotechnology (Including Foundation Year),
BSC C112 Biotechnology (Including Year Abroad),
BSC C113 Biotechnology (Including Placement Year),
MSCIB097 Tropical Marine Biology,
MSCIBA97 Tropical Marine Biology (Including Placement Year),
MSCIBB97 Tropical Marine Biology (Including Year Abroad)

Module description

This module will examine the relationships between the diversity and functioning of organisms and their environment.

Module aims

The aim of this module is:

  • To introduce students to the diversity, importance and wonder of plants together with an awareness of the biotic and abiotic factors influencing their distribution patterns in the biosphere.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the importance of plants.

  2. Describe the diversity, evolution and distribution of plants.

  3. Explain how abiotic factors and biotic interactions relate to adaptations in anatomy and morphology of angiosperms and to the and the distributions of plants in ecosystems.

  4. Explain primary production and nutrient cycling in ecosystems.

  5. Explain the unique features of plant biochemistry and metabolism including photosynthesis.

  6. Describe the processes that determine Earth's climate (past, present and future), the links between the earth-atmosphere-ocean system and the role of organisms in climate.

  7. Describe the effects of humans on ecosystems.

  8. Demonstrate competence in observation, experimentation and recording, analysis and presentation through laboratory field, group and individual work.

Skills for your professional life (Transferable Skills)

By the end of this module, students will be expected to have developed the following transferable skills:

  1. To work collaboratively in a teams of nine and individually to complete practical and online tasks.

  2. To work to professional levels of presentation including scientific writing, tables, accurate labelled scientific figures (drawings and graphs), data analysis and evaluation.

  3. To keep well-organised, clear and methodical records and results. 

  4. To use scientific knowledge and biological keys to identify different plant groupings and algae.

  5. Practical experience in plant physiology, photosynthesis, extraction techniques and chromatographic analysis of photosynthetic proteins; bio-imaging techniques; modern non-invasive techniques for photosynthesis research.

  6. Ecological sampling including assessing plant communities/habitats using quadrat sampling methods; abiotic analysis of soils.

Module information

As ecology is concerned with phenomena at several levels of organization, the course considers the different scales from the individual to the population, to the ecosystem and biome. We examine how behaviour, the non-living environment and biotic interactions affect the geographic distributions of organisms as well as population size and population growth.

This module will also examine the major terrestrial biomes describing and contrasting their key features and composition. Next, it will consider ecosystem function, looking in particular at energy and nutrient flows, from solar input to fixed carbon in plants, (primary production) and on to herbivores, carnivores and decomposers (secondary production). In order to understand the way that organisms affect and are affected by their environment, this module will describe the basics of the climate system and how it has changed over time including recent and projected changes due to human activities.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • One 1-hour lecture per week.
  • One revision class before the MCQ exam.
  • One revision class before the summer exam.
  • Four 3-hour practical sessions
  • One 1-hour session in the PC lab.

Lectures will include information on directed learning material or equivalent.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Exam  Main exam: Remote, Open Book, 60 minutes during Summer (Main Period) 
Exam  Reassessment Main exam: Remote, Open Book, 60 minutes during September (Reassessment Period) 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
33% 67%


Coursework Exam
33% 67%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Amanda Cavanagh, email:
School Undergraduate Office, email: bsugoffice (Non essex users should add to create the full email address)



External examiner

Prof Edgar Turner
University of Cambridge
Professor of Insect Ecology
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


Further information
Life Sciences (School of)

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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