Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


CODE BIO3520

 
TITLE Natural History of the Maltese Islands

 
LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course

 
ECTS CREDITS 4

 
DEPARTMENT Biology

 
DESCRIPTION This study-unit seeks to provide a scientific overview of the Maltese natural environment in all its facets, including the geological setting and palaeogeographical evolution, which laid down the foundations of the contemporary environment, the climate, which is a key shaper of the past and present environment, and the interaction of humans with their surrounds, which have modified all aspects of the Maltese environment. This study-unit is not meant as a popular account of Maltese natural history but assumes a basic knowledge of local geography and of biology and ecology.

The following topics will be treated through a combination of formal lectures and site visits:

- The Geological foundations: geology of the Maltese islands;
- Palaeogeographical evolution;
- Climate;
- Geomorphology and landscape; humans as geomorphic agents;
- Soil;
- Water resources;
- Habitats and biocoenoses: terrestrial, freshwater, anthropogenic;
- Biota and biogeography: terrestrial and freshwater flora; terrestrial and freshwater fauna;
- Human-environment interactions.

Students are informed that regular attendance to lectures and field/site visits is obligatory. The students' reports of field visits will be assessed and a grade awarded only if attendance to lectures and the field/site visits has been regular.

Study-Unit Aims:

The principal aims of this study-unit is to provide an overview of the contemporary natural environment of the Maltese Islands and its key components and to analyse what is known on how it developed to its present state and on the factors that affect it. This will be achieved through formal lectures and through site visits to places and sites of significant natural historic interest.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Explain and describe the key stages in the palaeogeographical development of the Maltese Islands;
- Describe the main factors that have shaped the Maltese natural environment, particularly those concerned with geology, climate and human activity;
- Explain how these factors have interacted in the past to give the present environment and how they are operating at present to maintain the contemporaneous environment;
- Describe the present state of knowledge of the non-marine biocoenoses and biota of the Maltese Islands, and the biogeography of the Maltese Islands and its evolution;
- Explain how human activities are integrated in all aspects of what is thought of as the ‘natural environment’.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Demonstrate:
   - The key aspects concerning the palaeogeographical development of the Maltese Islands;
   - The main factors that have shaped the Maltese natural environment, particularly those concerned with geology, climate and human activity, and;
   - The interactions between these factors to result in the present environment and how they are operating at present to maintain the contemporaneous environment.
- Demonstrate key aspects of the non-marine biocoenoses and biota of the Maltese Islands;
- Assess and evaluate key issues concerning the biogeography of the Maltese Islands and its evolution;
- Demonstrate how human activities are integrated in all aspects of what is thought of as the ‘natural environment’.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Allen, H.D. (2001) Mediterranean ecogeography. Prentice Hall.
- Blondel, J.; Aronson, J.; Bodiou, J-Y. & Boeuf, G. (2010) The Mediterranean region: biological diversity in space and time. Oxford University Press.
- Cassar, L.F.; Conrad, E. & Schembri, P.J. (2008) The Maltese archipelago. In: Vogiatzakis, I.N.; Pungetti, G. & Mannion, A.M. [eds] Mediterranean island landscapes: natural and cultural approaches. pp. 297-322. Heidelberg , Germany: Springer; xxxii + 369pp. [ISBN: 978-1-4020-5063-3]
- Grove, A.T. & Rackham, O. (2001) The nature of Mediterranean Europe: an ecological history. Yale University Press.
- Hunt, C.O. & Schembri, P.J. (1999) Quaternary environments and biogeography of the Maltese Islands. In: Mifsud, A. & Savona Ventura, C. [eds] Facets of Maltese prehistory. pp. 41-75; Malta: The Prehistoric Society of Malta; vii + 243pp.
- Lanfranco, E. & Lanfranco, G. (2003) Il-Flora Maltija. (Kullana Kulturali No. 47) Pieta, Malta: Pubblikazzjonijiet Indipendenza.
- Lanfranco S. (2002). L-Ambjent Naturali tal-Gżejjer Maltin. (Kullana Kulturali No. 45) Pieta, Malta: Pubblikazzjonijiet Indipendenza.
- Pedley, M.; Hughes Clarke, M. & Galea, P. (2002) Limestone isles in a crystal sea. The geology of the Maltese Islands. PEG, Malta.
- Schembri, P.J. (2003) Current state of knowledge of the Maltese non-marine fauna. In: Malta Environment and Planning Authority Annual report and accounts 2003. pp. 33-65; Floriana, Malta: Malta Environment and Planning Authority; 92pp.
- Schembri, P.J. & Baldacchino, A.E. (2011) Ilma, blat u hajja: is-sisien tal-ambjent naturali Malti [It-tielet edizzjoni riveduta]. Valletta, Malta: Malta University Publishing Ltd.; 118pp.

The ‘State of the Environment’ reports for Malta will also provide much useful information; these are available from the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA website at http://www.mepa.org.mt/ ). The MEPA website contains much other useful material.

 
ADDITIONAL NOTES Pre-requisite Study-units: BSc Hons Biology 1st year study-units

 
STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture, Fieldwork and Independent Study

 
METHOD OF ASSESSMENT
Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Report SEM2 Yes 100%

 
LECTURER/S Joseph A. Borg
Marco Cremona
Charles Galdies
Sandro Lanfranco
Anthony Sacco
Patrick J. Schembri
Daniel Sultana

 
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 2019/0, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.

https://www.um.edu.mt/course/studyunit