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School of Environment, Education and Development

Students on a field trip
BSc Geography and Geology
Benefit from a wide range of optional topics and practical trips on this combined degree.

BSc Geography and Geology

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Environmental Soil Science - biogeochemistry

Unit code EART20802
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? Yes

Overview

It is only through an understanding of soil processes that effective strategies can be made to counteract humankinds effects of pollution and disturbance on soils.

Aims

To examine the soil as a functional unit of terrestrial ecosystems and human-made environments.

Learning outcomes

After completing the course, students will be able to:

  • Describe in detail the importance of soil in the ecosystem
  • Explain the importance of decomposition to ecosystem function
  • Analyse humankinds effects of pollution and disturbance on soils, how these affect soils, and of remedial strategies.

Syllabus

Week 1:

Soil as a physical, chemical and biological environment (Prof. Richard Pattrick); composition of soil: mineral & organic components; soil classification.

Week 2:

Soil as a physical, chemical and biological environment (Prof. Richard Pattrick); soil chemical reactions: cation exchange complex, soil pH, buffering capacity.

Week 3:

Soil as a physical, chemical and biological environment (Prof. Richard Pattrick); forms of nitrogen and phosphorus in soils; nutrient availability; K, Ca, Mg, trace elements; soil moisture.

Week 4:

Importance of decomposition in soil functioning (Dr Clare H. Robinson); the decomposition sub-system; decomposition as a function of leaching, comminution and catabolism.

Week 5:

Importance of decomposition in soil functioning (Dr Clare H. Robinson); decomposition as a function of the physico-chemical environment, resource quality and activities of decomposer organisms.

Week 6:

Importance of soil organisms in nutrient cycling (Dr Clare H. Robinson); bacteria; saprotrophic fungi; mycorrhizas.

Week 7:

Importance of soil organisms in nutrient cycling (Dr Clare H. Robinson); bacteria; saprotrophic fungi; mycorrhizas.

Week 8:

Importance of soil organisms in nutrient cycling (Dr Clare H. Robinson); micro-, meso- and macro- fauna, microbial-faunal interactions.

Week 9:

Humankinds effects of pollution and disturbance on soils, remedial strategies, and how an understanding of basic soil processes can affect these strategies (Dr Clare H. Robinson); soil management; impact of environmental change of soils.

Week 10:

Humankinds effects of pollution and disturbance on soils, remedial strategies, and how an understanding of basic soil processes can affect these strategies (Dr Clare H. Robinson); fungal bioremediation of soils contaminated with polyaromatic hydrocarbons.

Assessment methods

Lectures: 2 lectures per week

Practicals: Several 2.5 h practical sessions as advised

Assessment: Written examination (1.5 hours in June) 70%: Course work 30%

Coursework comprises two assessments. Each is an assignment involving reading around a specific topic and summarising the topic on one A4 sheet, making use of diagrams and tables where necessary, using one journal reference, one textbook reference and one reputable web-based reference.

Feedback about Coursework: Written feedback is given to each student within two weeks of each coursework hand-in date.

Feedback about Examination: The marked examination script for each student will be made available for the student to see by arrangement during timetabled slots with Mr Mike Turner. Also at this time, an A4 sheet containing important points about how students' examination answers could be improved will be posted on the Examination Feedback Noticeboard.

Feedback methods

Feedback about Coursework: Written feedback is given to each student within two weeks of each coursework hand-in date.

 

Feedback about Examination: The marked examination script for each student will be made available for the student to see by arrangement during timetabled slots with Mr Mike Turner. Also at this time, an A4 sheet containing important points about how students' examination answers could be improved will be posted on the Examination Feedback Noticeboard.

Recommended reading

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 100

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Clare Robinson Unit coordinator

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