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Module titleBiogeography
Module codeGEO2450
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Dr Jon Bennie (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

How does the living world interact with the physical landscape? Why do plants and animals live where they do, and how do they adapt to, and shape, the physical environment? How are these relationships between life and landscape adapting to a rapidly changing planet? In this module we will examine current themes in biogeography and landscape ecology, including the historical, geographical and biological processes which determine the past and current distributions of species, and how these distributions are shifting under a changing climate. We will investigate in detail some of the ecological patterns, processes and feedbacks that occur in both natural and human-dominated landscapes across spatial scales from the local to the global. In coursework you will be encouraged to apply this knowledge to contemporary issues of environmental management and biodiversity conservation.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to introduce you to the theory and concepts of biogeography and landscape ecology and to develop an understanding of how this theory is applied in current research and environmental management. Drawing on ideas from physical geography, ecology, meteorology and other disciplines, you will gain an integrated understanding of the forces influencing the distribution of plants and animals, and how they interact with the physical environment, being both shaped by, and in turn shaping, the landscape.

Much of the module content will be related to research undertaken by the module convenor, including examples drawing on recent research on climate change and forest management at the landscape scale; shifting range margins of insects under climate change; and landscape structure, microclimates and plant distribution. A key aim is to link developments in the fields of biogeography and landscape ecology to applications in both theoretical and applied conservation and management.

You will develop skills in

  • computer modelling of spatial and environmental systems
  • problem solving
  • the ability to link theory to applied problems and develop novel solutions for problems with confidence
  • time management
  • data presentation
  • report writing.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Describe the core themes and theory behind the disciplines of biogeography, landscape ecology and spatial ecology
  • 2. Describe and model (using simple computer simulations) the relationships between life and landscape at a range of different spatial scales
  • 3. Explain the importance of understanding spatial interactions between life and the physical environment to contemporary environmental management

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Describe in some detail essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of physical geography
  • 5. Identify critical questions from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 6. Identify and implement, with guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for addressing specific research problems in physical geography
  • 7. With some guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within physical geography
  • 8. Describe and evaluate approaches to our understanding of physical geography with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 9. Develop, with some guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with valid conclusions
  • 10. Communicate ideas, principles and theories fluently using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 11. Collect and interpret appropriate data and complete research-like tasks, drawing on a range of sources, with limited guidance
  • 12. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills, and apply own evaluation criteria

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • An introduction to biogeography and landscape ecology
  • Global terrestrial and marine biogeography
  • Climate change and species distributions
  • Island biogeography and metapopulations
  • Landscape ecology – patterns and processes
  • Landscape feedbacks and biogeomorphology
  • Spatial ecology of human-dominated landscapes
  • Spatial and landscape-scale conservation
  • Computer practicals (three 3-hour sessions) – may be moved online/replaced in the event of continued COVID-19 lockdown/social distancing rules.
  • Field trip (1 day) – may be moved online/replaced in the event of continued COVID-19 lockdown/social distancing rules.

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 Teaching20Lectures and seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching9Computer practicals (3 x 3 hours).Computer practicals may have to be moved online/replaced in the event of continued COVID-19 lockdown/social distancing rules.
Scheduled Learning and Teaching8Field trip. Module field trips may have to be moved online/replaced in the event of continued COVID-19 lockdown/social distancing rules.
Guided independent study113Additional reading, preparation for seminars and assessments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during lectures and seminarsOngoingAllOral

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
Essay501500 words1-11Written
Practical write-up502000 words1-11Written and oral


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-11August ref-def
Practical write-upPractical write-up1-11August 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. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Kent M (2007) Biogeography and landscape ecology. Progress in Physical Geography 31 (3) 345-355
  • Cox CB, Ladle RJ, Moore PD (2016) Biogeography - an Ecological and Evolutionary Approach (9th edition) Wiley Blackwell, Oxford
  • Lomolino MV, Heaney LR (2004) Frontiers of biogeography: new directions in the geography of nature. Sinauer, Sunderland. Mass.
  • Rosenzweig ML (1995) Species diversity in space and time. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Gaston KJ (2003) The structure and dynamics of geographic ranges. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Various papers in Functional Biogeography Special Feature (2014) Proceedings of the National; Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111 (an entire edition of the journal focused on functional biogeography – see

Key journals associated with this module are:

  • Journal of Biogeography
  • Landscape Ecology
  • Global Ecology and Biogeography
  • Ecography
  • Global Change Biology

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Biogeography, landscape ecology, physical geography, bigeomorphology, environmental change

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date