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Landscape Dynamics

Module titleLandscape Dynamics
Module codeGEO2231
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Professor Andrew Nicholas (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The surface of the Earth is composed of diverse landscapes that evolve over timescales ranging from minutes to millions of years and are a product of both natural environmental drivers (e.g., tectonics, geology, climate, sea level) and human activities (e.g., land use, dam construction, flood control, coastal management). This module is designed to give you an overview of the mechanisms that control the evolution of a variety of landscapes (e.g., rivers, deltas and mountain ranges). The module comprises a combination of lectures and practical exercises, in which you will apply a range of laboratory and computer simulation models to explore landscape processes and responses to natural and human-induced environmental change. Module assessment is by coursework (100%), which will require a substantial time commitment to complete the associated experimental, computing, data analysis and interpretation exercises.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module has the following broad aims:

  • To provide you with an understanding of the factors and processes that control landscape evolution, and the roles that humans play in controlling this evolution and perturbing natural landscapes.
  • To introduce you to the potential for using physical experiments (in the laboratory) and computer models to simulate landscape evolution and explore the implications of environmental change and human behaviour for landscape stability.
  • To provide you with experience of a variety of data analysis and modelling techniques that are relevant to the quantitative study of landscape systems and to employment in a range of environmental consultancies.

The module involves in-depth practicals and class discussions that seek to develop the following graduate attributes:

  • interpersonal skills through small group presentations, preceded by research design and data analysis in teams carried out over multiple weeks of preparation
  • confidence in assessing the robustness of scientific evidence and in generating and delivering verbal presentations
  • problem solving through quantitative data analysis and evaluation of assumptions that underpin alternative analysis methodologies with varying levels of complexity
  • articulating scientific concepts and evidence with confidence through enquiry-led research in the assessed poster topic
  • team management in the assessed presentation topic.

The teaching contributions on this module involve elements of research undertaken by the module convenor, such as work on sediment transport, flooding and the application and evaluation of numerical models.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Discuss landscape processes and morphology
  • 2. Describe and explain landscape evolution and responses to disturbances over a range of time and space scales
  • 3. Employ physical experiments and computer models to simulate landscape processes
  • 4. Analyse and quantitatively evaluate the results from such simulations
  • 5. Synthesise knowledge from literature sources and apply this knowledge to interpret simulation results

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Illustrate and discuss the contested and provisional nature of knowledge and understanding, particularly with respect to landscape evolution and the application of simulation models
  • 7. Evaluate and apply a diverse range of specialised techniques and approaches involved in collecting geographical information quantifying landscape morphology and processes
  • 8. Assess rigorously the nature and causes of change and process-form feedbacks that govern the evolution of geographical systems
  • 9. Discuss reciprocal relationships between physical and human environments

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently by written means with supporting diagrams and analytical results
  • 11. Develop a sustained and reasoned argument
  • 12. Formulate and evaluate questions and identify and evaluate approaches to problem solving
  • 13. Undertake independent and group learning

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The module will be divided into three parts, each of which will address a different landscape feature (e.g., rivers and floodplains, deltas, mountains etc). Each of these three parts will include lectures that: (a) Summarise the main processes that operate in the landscape; (b) Discuss the factors that control the evolution of the landscape and, where relevant, the role played by humans in this evolution; and (c) Provide an introduction to a set of practical exercises that support the assessed coursework. Following these contextual lectures, you will work individually to conduct practical exercises that involve physical modelling (in the sediment research facility) and/or numerical modelling and data analysis (in IT classes).

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Laboratory-based practical
Scheduled Learning and Teaching14IT practical (7 x 2 hours)
Guided Independent Study125Coursework, practicals and associated reading


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Data analysis practical2-hour exercise1-4, 7, 10, 13Oral
Feedback on practical exercises given during classesN/AAllOral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Written coursework report 602000 words equivalentAllWritten


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Written coursework report Report (2000 words equivalent)AllAugust Ref/Def
PosterA3 PosterAllAugust Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as described above. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

There is no single core text for this module. Reading will be drawn from current literature in a range of scientific journals such as Nature Geoscience, Geology, Journal of Geophysical Research etc. Indicative examples include:

  • Bonnet, S. and Crave, A. (2003) Landscape response to climate change: insights from experimental modelling and implications for tectonic versus climatic uplift of topography, Geology, vol 31, p 123-126.
  • Egozi, R. and Ashmore, P.E. (2009) Experimental analysis of braided channel pattern response to increased discharge, Journal of Geophysical Research, vol 114, doi 10.1029/2008JF1099
  • Syvitski, J.P.M. et al. (2009) Sinking deltas due to human activities, Nature Geoscience, vol 2, p 681-686.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Landscape evolution, environmental change, simulation, physical model, numerical model

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date