University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE An Introduction to the Natural Environment of Malta and the Mediterranean

LEVEL 01 - Year 1 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION 1) Geological features and evolution of the Mediterranean and of the Maltese Islands
2) The Mediterranean Climate
3) The Messinian Salinity Crisis
4) Vegetation of the Mediterranean region
5) Habitats and biodiversity, with special reference to habitats of special interest to Malta
6) The Mediterranean marine environment

Important note:

This study-unit is partly based on on-site experience. Therefore, one or more site-visits, which may be part of the course, are considered as essential for the understanding of the basic principles discussed during the formal lectures. Students will be required to prepare reports after such site-visits. As such, attendance to these site-visits, as well as satisfactory site-visit reports are considered as obligatory. A grade will be issued for this study-unit only if these conditions are satisfied.

Furthermore, students are to note that they will be allowed to sit for the respective study-unit examination and be awarded a grade only if they have regularly attended lectures, have submitted all assignments and have satisfied all study-unit requirements.

Study-unit Aims:

This study-unit, which has been primarily designed for non-biology students, applies the basic concepts reviewed in BIO1060 (Introductory Environmental Science) to the Mediterranean in general and to the Maltese Islands in particular; it surveys the distinctive characteristics of the Mediterranean basin and identifies the main features which make this a unique region.

Learning Outcomes:

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

1) Define the extent of the Mediterranean region according to different criteria;
2) Describe and appreciate the sequence of plate tectonic processes that are thought to have led to the formation of the Mediterranean region in its present form;
3) Describe the climate types present in different parts of the Mediterranean region;
4) Appreciate the role of the Messinian Salinity Crisis in the history of the Mediterranean region;
5) Describe the principal natural habitats of the Mediterranean region and appreciate their dynamics;
6) Describe the principal characteristics and processes of the Mediterranean Sea;
7) Appreciate the role of anthropogenic disturbance in the changes ongoing in the Mediterranean region.

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

(1) Critically appraise various points of view when explaining the same phenomenon;
(2) Explain complex processes by starting from the basic principles of science;
(3) Describe the role of humans and domesticated animals in changing the characteristic of the Mediterranean region;
(4) Interpret climate diagrams;
(5) Predict the probable effects of human activity and climate change on various Mediterranean habitats.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

There is no set text but a list of readings will be given during the study-unit. The following provide a useful background:

ALLEN, HD (2001) Mediterranean ecogeography. Prentice Hall.

BLONDEL, J, ARONSON, J, BODIOU, JY, BOEUF, G (2010) The Mediterranean region: Biological diversity in space and time. Oxford University Press.

GROVE, AT & RACKHAM, O (2001). The nature of Mediterranean Europe: an ecological history. Yale University Press.

LANFRANCO, E & LANFRANCO, G (2003) Il-Flora Maltija. [Kullana Kulturali] PIN, Malta.

LANFRANCO, S (2002): L-ambjent naturali tal-Gżejjer Maltin. [Kullana Kulturali] PIN, Malta.

MOJETTA, A (1996) Mediterranean Sea: guide to the underwater life. Swan Hill Press.

PEDLEY, M; HUGHES CLARKE, M & GALEA, P (2002) Limestone isles in a crystal sea. The geology of the Maltese Islands. PEG, Malta.

SCHEMBRI, PJ (1994) Natural heritage. In: Frendo, H. & Friggieri, O. [eds] Malta culture and identity. pp. 105-124; Valletta, Malta: Ministry of Youth and the Arts.

SCHEMBRI, PJ & BALDACCHINO, AE (1998) Ilma, blat u ħajja: is-sisien ta’ l-ambjent naturali Malti. [It- tieni edizioni riveduta]. Malta University Publishers Ltd, Malta.

The ‘State of the Environment’ reports for Malta will also provide much useful information; three have been published so far: 1998, 2002 and 2005, all of which are available from the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA website at )


ADDITIONAL NOTES Not for students taking Biology or Chemistry as a main subject area as part of the B.Sc (Hons) or of the B.Ed. (Hons) degree courses.

Pre-requisite Qualifications: Entry requirements or equivalent.

Students are to note that they will be allowed to sit for this study-unit examination 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 Lecture and Visit

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Fieldwork No 15%
Examination (1 Hour and 30 Minutes) Yes 85%

LECTURER/S Sandro Lanfranco
Patrick J. Schembri

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.
MSc (Research) and PhD application deadlines
Application Deadlines for Academic Year 2017/18 
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