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GEOG393 Plants, People and the Environment

Semester Two, 18 points

Lectures: Monday & Tuesday: 10am – 10.50am
Labs: either Monday or Tuesday: 2pm - 4.50pm

Course Coordinator: Dr Ralf Ohlemüller – ralf.ohlemuller@otago.ac.nz


Plants are the foundation of all life on Earth. Apart from sustaining the biosphere, plant life provides more immediate and direct benefits to people and other species. We have been slow in recognising that we need to be concerned for the well-being of vegetation systems at least as much as we are for animals, birds, and insects. Moreover, an understanding of the nature of plant communities and vegetation types is fundamental to any attempts to manage local ecosystems, and to redress the damage caused by human actions. In this paper, we will investigate the nature of plants and vegetation in their environmental context.

The aim of the paper is to provide a knowledge framework and skills set for understanding the nature of plants, plant communities, and vegetation systems as the basis for investigating and understanding human relationships with vegetation.

Lectures
The lectures in this paper will provide you with the necessary background knowledge and understanding of the main concepts and ideas covered by this paper. The paper is structured into four main parts. The first addresses evolutionary and historical aspects of plant diversity globally and in New Zealand. The second covers the main environmental drivers of plant function and vegetation patterns. The third module introduces the main vegetation types on Earth and highlights differences and analogies between them. The final module focuses on human uses of and threats to plants and vegetation.

Laboratories
The laboratories linked to this paper comprise a series of practical exercises on various aspects of plant and vegetation studies to be completed over eight weeks. You will be allocated to one of five groups, for either the Monday or the Tuesday afternoon programme, and the exercises are organised on a “round-robin” basis: each group progressively works through the set of exercises, week by week. A practical manual will be provided before the practicals start and this will contain full details of each exercise, together with the necessary theory and explanatory material for each topic. A demonstrator will work with each group each week.

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Details

Historical biogeography of plants; plant adaptations and vegetation dynamics; world biome types; plants and society; human impacts on vegetation.

Paper title Plants, People and the Environment
Paper code GEOG393
Subject Geography
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period Second Semester
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,059.15
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $4,627.65

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Prerequisite
54 GEOG points
Restriction
GEOG 287
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Science
Contact
geography@otago.ac.nz
Teaching staff

Course Coordinator: Dr Ralf Ohlemuller

Paper Structure

Lectures:
The lectures in this paper will provide you with the necessary background knowledge and understanding of the main concepts and ideas covered by this paper. The paper is structured into four main parts:

  • Evolutionary and historical aspects of plant diversity
  • Environmental drivers of plant function and vegetation patterns
  • Understanding global vegetation types
  • Human uses of and threats to plants and vegetation

Laboratories:
The laboratories linked to the paper comprise a series of practical exercises on various aspects of plant and vegetation studies to be completed over eight weeks. You will be allocated to one of five groups, and the exercises are organised on a round robin basis: each group progressively works through the set of exercises, week by week. A practical manual will be provided before the practical's start, and this will contain full details of each exercise, together with the necessary theory and explanatory material for each topic. A dedicated demonstrator will work with each group each week.

Assessment is 50% internal (on-going during the semester) and 50% external (final examination)

Teaching Arrangements

Two 50-minute lectures per week

A series of 2:50-minute laboratories run in scheduled weeks over the 13 weeks of semester

Textbooks

There is no set textbook for this paper. Relevant primary literature will be pointed out to you during the course of the paper. It will be necessary and useful to consult a number of texts. In addition, specific sources will be listed for some of the topics, especially those relating to human impacts on vegetation, to reflect the type of research currently being carried out on these issues. Suggested reading material will be given in each lecture.

The following texts all cover some aspects of the paper and are available on reserve in the Science Library:

  • Adams, J.M. (2010) Vegetation-climate interaction — how plants make the global environment. Springer Verlag. (ebook at Otago library)
  • Archibold, O.W. (1995) Ecology of world vegetation. Chapman & Hall
  • Bonan, G.B. (2008) Ecological climatology: concepts and applications. Cambridge University Press
  • Breckle, S.W. (2002) Walter's vegetation of the Earth: the ecological systems of the geo-biosphere
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Communication, Critical thinking, Environmental literacy, Information literacy, Research.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
By the end of the paper you will have:
  • Developed an understanding of the evolution and functioning of plants
  • Gained insights into patterns and processes shaping vegetation types and their geographic distribution at a range of spatial scales
  • Examined the threats to plants and vegetation and the natural and anthropogenic processes driving vegetation change
  • Reviewed the extent to which plants and vegetation play a role in human life
  • Developed the necessary skills for conducting basic plant identifications, vegetation surveys and data analyses

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Timetable

Second Semester

Location
Dunedin
Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system
Blackboard

Lecture

Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend
L1 Monday 10:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41
Tuesday 10:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41