Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Biotic Communities: Composition and Dynamics

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION This study-unit is specifically designed for students following the Geography degree course or having Geography as a subsidiary area. It introduces participants to the general principles of the ecology of biotic communities, emphasizing the processes governing the interactions of organisms with each other and with their abiotic environment, and the resulting movement of material and energy in the ecosystem. Fieldwork, which forms an integral part of this study-unit, will include use of common techniques to collect data on biotic communities and the analysis and interpretation of these data. Fieldwork will also include familiarisation with the biotic communities of the Maltese Islands (and the Mediterranean).

Study-unit Aims:

This study-unit is specifically designed for students following the Geography degree course or having Geography as a subsidiary area.

The study-unit aims to:
- Familiarise students with general ecological concepts related to the composition, characteristics and dynamics of biotic communities, including those of the Mediterranean and the Maltese Islands;
- Familiarise students with field techniques for ecological sampling and with the analysis of community data.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Define and distinguish between species, populations, communities and ecosystems;
- Describe the characteristics of biotic communities;
- Describe interspecific interactions in biotic communities;
- Describe the processes of primary and secondary ecological succession;
- Describe the structure of ecosystems;
- Compare the various levels of biological diversity present within an ecological community or in a group of communities.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Select an appropriate data collection method for analysis of biotic communities in the field;
- Utilise various techniques for management and analysis of community data.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Basic study-unit texts:

- Cain, M.L., Bowman, W.D. & Hacker, S.D. (2014). Ecology (3rd edition). Sinauer Associates.
- Smith, T.M. & Smith R.L. (2014). Elements of ecology (9th edition). Pearson.

Supplementary readings:

(1) Practical component:

- Brower, J., Zar, J., & von Ende, C.N. (1997). Field and laboratory methods in general ecology. McGraw-Hill.

(2) Mediterranean / Maltese Biotic Communities:

- Allen, H. (2001). Mediterranean Ecogeography. Prentice-Hall.
- Blondel, J., Aronson, J., Bodiou, J.Y. & Boeuf, G. (2010). The Mediterranean Region: Biological Diversity through Time and Space. Second Edition. Oxford University Press.
- Schembri, P.J. & Baldacchino, A.E. (2011). Ilma, Blat u Hajja (3rd edition) [in Maltese]. Malta University Publishing.

ADDITIONAL NOTES This study-unit is partly based on practical experience. Therefore, the fieldwork, which is part of the course, is considered as essential for the understanding of the basic principles discussed during the formal lectures. As such, attendance for fieldwork and a satisfactory report on the fieldwork component, is obligatory. A grade will be issued for this study-unit only if these conditions are satisfied.

Students are to note that they will be allowed to sit for the examination component of this study-unit and will be awarded a grade only if they have regularly attended lectures and practical classes, if they have submitted any assignments, including practical reports, and if they satisfy all other study-unit requirements.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Fieldwork, Lecture, Independent Study & Practicum

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Practical SEM2 No 25%
Examination (2 Hours) SEM2 Yes 75%

LECTURER/S Julian Evans

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 description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.