KE5030 - Ecosystem Processes in the Anthropocene

What will I learn on this module?

In this module you will learn about key ecosystem processes, how they link to ecosystem services related to food production and land use management and how they are disrupted by human activities. There are a wide range of topics, we will consider human impacts to nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, pollination, biodiversity and conservation for example, and how these intersect with environmental policy and regulation, as well as societal and economic factors.

The Anthropocene presents us with many global challenges, and understanding ecosystem function will provide sustainable solutions to manage land and water resources successfully. In particular, you will learn laboratory techniques to assess human impact to ecosystem processes and how these are applied in land management decision-making tools.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn through lectures, seminars, practicals/workshops, fieldwork and directed independent learning. Lectures will cover key theories and concepts . During seminars, you will discuss and challenge these concepts in real world situations and case studies. Practicals/workshops and fieldwork will develop hands-on skills in analytical methods to assess the impact of human activities on ecosystem processes. Independent study will be guided and supported by interactive learning resources on the module eLP site.

Each week lectures will introduce a topic, which will be supported by in-depth discussion during seminars. These seminars will be student-led and include a case study example presented by a group of students. These case studies, together with further independent research, will help develop your arguments for the summative assessment. Over the course of the semester, practical/workshop sessions will develop skills in data collection, analysis and data interpretation. Results will be collated throughout the semester and incorporated into the final assessment. Formative feedback will be provided in the seminars and practical/workshop sessions.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Support will include face to face feedback during the seminars and practicals/workshops. You will have an opportunity to discuss how you are developing your summative report and get direct feedback on your ideas.

Support will also be provided via the module eLP site. Online resources include interactive reading lists and links to practical examples and case studies.

Teaching staff operate an ‘open door’ policy for students meaning you can approach them anytime during normal office hours, or via email, to answer questions, receive feedback and support your learning on the module.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
• MLO 1: Demonstrate an understanding of the Anthropocene disruptions on ecosystem processes and how these can be mitigated and/or reversed.
• MLO 2: Effectively research a case study relating to ecosystem process disruption and potential solutions

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
• MLO 3: Undertake data collection, analysis and interpretation from practical/workshop activities

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
• MLO 4: Work effectively as an individual and as part of a group to deliver timely peer learning support
• MLO 5: develop an awareness of and critical engagement with, wider environmental issues

How will I be assessed?

A final individual written portfolio on ecosystem processes will be submitted, worth 100% of the module marks, comprising:
1. a lab report (1000 words; 50% of marks)
2. an essay (1500 words; 50% of marks)

The lab research and essay critical evaluation on ecosystem processes for the portfolio will be developed through seminar-led discussions and practical/workshop materials developed over the course of the semester. This will cover MLOs 1-5.

Formative feedback will be provided during seminars and practicals/workshop sessions.





Module abstract

Human-induced disruptions to ecosystem processes are evident all around us at local and global scales, leading to novel challenges. Human activities throughout the Anthropocene manage, alter and disrupt key ecosystem processes which underpin the ecosystem services we rely on for food, fibre and clean air and water. Ecosystem processes, namely the cycling of nutrients, water and energy, are the complex interactions between biotic and abiotic forces which govern the ecosystem services we rely on: such as soil formation, carbon cycling, pollination, flood regulation. We are now living in the era of the Anthropocene, and the pressures on land and water resources, and in particular, the ecosystem processes that underpin them are increasing.

Focusing on land use issues and the competing demands for a range of challenges such as food production, biodiversity conservation, space for recreation and waste disposal, this module considers the role of ecosystem processes and biodiversity, both above- and below-ground; how they have been disrupted and impacted by human activities; and how they can be harnessed/restored to help Society achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Within the Anthropocene, sustainable ecosystem management is a huge challenge, and this module explores solutions based on a better understanding of ecosystem processes and their inclusion in policy frameworks. As an environmental scientist, this module will strengthen your skills in written and oral communication, laboratory methods, data analysis and critical evaluation of ecosystem-based land management options.

Course info

UCAS Code F751

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Geography and Environmental Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing.

Full time Courses starting in 2023 are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but may include elements of online learning. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to flex accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with additional restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors, potentially to a full online offer, should further restrictions be deemed necessary in future. Our online activity will be delivered through Blackboard Ultra, enabling collaboration, connection and engagement with materials and people.


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