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2023/24 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

BLGY5102M Community Ecology

15 creditsClass Size: 60

Module manager: Professor Bill Kunin

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is not approved as an Elective


Community ecology focuses on biodiversity: how we measure it, how it is maintained in natural biotic communities, and how conservation managers can intervene to help maintain it. Students should come away from the lectures with a broad understanding of community ecology theory and methods, and experience in applying these to conservation decision-making and action. The final essay will give them an opportunity to explore one of these topics in much greater depth, in the context of the recent literature. The practical sessions will provide experience in the use of diversity indices, the analysis of biodiversity patterns in space and time, and in conservation planning in the context of limited information.

Learning outcomes
On completion of the module students should:
1. Have a broad understanding of community ecology theory and methods and experience in applying these to conservation decision-making and action;
2. Understand the use of diversity indices, the analysis of biodiversity patterns in space and time, and
3. Have experience in team-based conservation planning and decision-making in the context of limited information.

Skills outcomes
The module is designed to provide a range of opportunities for professional development, including the provision of surveying and biodiversity analysis skills (Practical sessions 1-3) and teamwork, presentation and decision-making skills (Practical 4). It will also provide a broad grounding in ecological ideas relevant to community-level conservation work, with practical applications of theory stressed in the lectures.


The diversity of life on Earth. Global patterns of biodiversity: latitudinal trends. Scaling ecological associations. The measurement of diversity. Patterns in the relative abundance of species. Species-area relations. Sampling effects and spatial scale. The spatial structure of populations and communities. Food changes, food webs, and interaction webs, and energy flows through systems.

Community assembly rules. Community invasibility. Succession. The problem of species coexistence. Limiting similarity, niche separation. Natural enemies and the coexistence of competitors. Keystone interactions. Disturbance and recolonization. Regeneration niches. Intermediate disturbance and productivity effects. Spatial and temporal aspects of coexistence: Storage effects, mass effects, disequilibrium and slow dynamics. Historical effects. The equilibrium theory of island biogeography. Empirical patterns of island communities. Reserves as ecological islands.

The SLOSS? (single large or several small) debate. Advantages and disadvantages of conservation corridors. Edge effects and reserve shape. beta-diversity and reserve complimentarity. Indicator taxa. Managing for supersaturation. The value of biodiversity?

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours122.00
Total Contact hours28.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

All practicals will be carried out by small working groups (typically of 2 students). Each group will be given data forms to use in the practical and instructions as to how to proceed. Formative feedback will be provided on participation in the practical work.

Group project: working in groups of 3 to develop conservation strategies for the community in question distributed across an imaginary landscape, subject to progressive development and consequent habit deterioration. Each group will present their chosen conservation strategy.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
EssayAssessed final essay65.00
Group ProjectGroup presentation (30%) and simulation results (5%) - Reserve Design exercise35.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Assessment in the form of group work will be an individual resit.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 28/04/2023 14:48:03


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