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Study-Unit Description
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CODE BIO5003

 
TITLE The Marine Environment: Biological Patterns, Processes and Resources

 
LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course

 
ECTS CREDITS 5

 
DEPARTMENT Biology

 
DESCRIPTION The marine environment supports many interconnected ecosystems, which are determined by a complex interplay of abiotic and biotic factors. Numerous species and habitats form part of these ecosystems, some of which provide important services and are of high ecological and economic value. Marine ecosystems support a very high biodiversity and contribute essential resources and ecosystem services to the human population, including those linked to recreation and to important commercial activities such as tourism, aquaculture and fisheries.

These ecosystems are, however, susceptible to disruption resulting from extreme natural events and anthropogenic activities.

The first part of this study-unit will deal with the main biological features of the marine environment, including patterns and processes within marine ecosystems, the biological resources they support, and the main physical and chemical factors influencing marine life and ecosystems. The second part deals with the biological component of marine ecosystems and the natural and anthropogenic factors that influence biodiversity, and methods for assessing biodiversity. The Mediterranean Sea will be taken as an example of a marine biodiversity hotspot. The third part covers assessment of the state of the marine environment through methods and procedures for monitoring and evaluating impact and risk. The main EU directives dealing with marine environmental quality, namely the Bathing Water Directive, the Water Framework Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive will be briefly reviewed. Finally, the study unit will consider two case studies concerning environmental assessment and monitoring of coastal development.

The main topics covered during this unit are:

Biological features
- Ecological principles as applied to the marine environment: physical and chemical factors influencing marine life; populations, communities and ecosystems; marine production
- The pelagic and benthic domains with special reference to habitats of high ecological and/or commercial importance
- Biological resources, including fishery resources

Marine biodiversity
- What is biological diversity?
- The value of marine biodiversity
- Assessing marine biodiversity: biodiversity hotspots
- Natural and anthropogenic factors affecting marine biodiversity
- The Mediterranean Sea as a biodiversity hotspot
- Effects of climate change
- Effects of pollution

Monitoring & impact/risk assessment
- Concept of marine ecological assessment and monitoring
- Monitoring of physico-chemical attributes
- Bioindicators and biomonitoring
- Monitoring of pollution
- Risk assessment of major hazards such as marine spills
- EU Directives for marine environmental monitoring
o Bathing Water Directive
o Water Framework Directive
o Marine Strategy Framework Directive
- Case study: environmental monitoring of a Maltese beach replenishment project
- Case study: major coastal engineering works (Excavation of a major marina basin) and related impacts on environmental quality and biodiversity

Study-Unit Aims

This unit is mainly aimed at equipping students with knowledge of the:
1) Ecological principles as applied to the marine environment, including:
a. physical and chemical factors influencing marine life;
b. concepts of species populations, communities, ecosystems and marine production;
c. patterns and processes that characterize marine ecosystems;
2) Pelagic and benthic domains with special reference to habitats of high ecological and/or commercial importance;
3) Biological resources, including fishery resources;
4) Marine biodiversity;
5) Natural and anthropogenic factors affecting marine biodiversity;
6) Monitoring of the marine environment;
7) Evaluating the marine environment through impact and risk assessments;
8) The main EU Directives concerning marine environmental protection.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the study-unit the students will be able to:

1) Identify the physical and chemical factors influencing marine life;
2) Define and explain the main concepts underlying species populations, communities and ecosystems, and marine production;
3) Define pelagic and benthic domains, and explain the importance of biological resources including fishery resources;
4) Define and explain the main concepts underlying marine biodiversity;
5) Identify and the natural and anthropogenic factors affecting marine biodiversity;
6) Define and explain methods and procedures for evaluating the status of the marine environment through impact and risk assessments;
7) Define and explain monitoring of the marine environment;
8) Define and explain the main EU Directives concerning marine environmental protection.

2. Skills:
By the end of the study-unit the students will be able to:

1) Integrate theory of the physical and chemical factors influencing marine life, and of the main concepts underlying species populations, communities, ecosystems, and marine production with applied problems in marine science;
2) Apply knowledge of the pelagic and benthic domains, and of biological resources including fishery resources, to understand how they can be affected by natural and anthropogenic changes;
3) Apply knowledge of marine biodiversity to understand how this can be affected by natural and anthropogenic changes;
4) Define and explain the main concepts underlying marine biodiversity;
5) Identify and the natural and anthropogenic factors affecting marine biodiversity;
6) Apply knowledge of methods and procedures for evaluating the status of the marine environment through impact and risk assessments;
7) Apply knowledge of methods and procedures to monitor the marine environment;
8) Apply knowledge of the main EU Directives concerning marine environmental protection to practical situations.

Main text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Text:

- DENNY M. (2008) How the ocean works: an introduction to oceanography. Princeton University Press.
- KAISER M.J., ATTRILL M.J., JENNINGS S., THOMAS D.N., BARNES D.K.A., BRIERLEY A.S., POLUNIN N.V.C., RAFFAELLI D.G. & Le B WILLIAMS P.J. (2011) Marine Ecology: processes, systems, and impacts. Oxford University Press.
- KING M. (2007). Fisheries Biology, Assessment and Management. Wiley-Blackwell; 2nd Edition edition.
- LEVINTON J. (2009) Marine biology: function, biodiversity, ecology. [3rd ed.] Oxford University Press.
- MORRISSEY J. F. & SUMICH J. L. (2009). Biology of marine life. Jones & Bartlett.
- SPEIGHT M. & HENDERSON P. (2010) Marine ecology: concepts and applications. Wiley-Blackwell.

Supplementary readings:

- KETCHAUM B.H. [ed.] (1983) Estuaries and enclosed seas. Elsevier.
- MARGALEF R. [ed.] (1985) Western Mediterranean. Pergamon Press.
- MOJETTA A. (1996) Mediterranean Sea: guide to the underwater life. Swan Hill Press.
- NYBAKKEN J. W. & BERTNESS M. D. (2004) Marine biology: an ecological approach. [6th ed.] Benjamin Cummings.
- RODRÍGUEZ PRIETO C. & PARDINI G. [eds] (2004) The Mediterranean Sea. An overview of its present state and plans for future protection. [Lectures from the 4th International Summer School on the Environment, 2004] Institut de Medi Ambient. Universitat de Girona, Spain.
- SANDULLI R., GIACCONE G. & TURSI A. (2011) Biologia marina – Italian edition of CASTRO P. & HUBER M.E. (2010) Marine biology [8th ed]. McGraw-Hill [Italian translation of the classic text by Castro & Huber with added material of particular relevance to the Mediterranean Sea].

 
STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture, Fieldwork and Independent Study

 
METHOD OF ASSESSMENT
Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment Yes 30%
Examination (2 Hours) Yes 70%

 
LECTURER/S Victor Axiak
Joseph A. Borg
Simeon Deguara
Alan Deidun
Leyla Knittweis (Co-ord.)
Sandro Lanfranco
Patrick J. Schembri
Adriana Vella

 
The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
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