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2024/25 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

SOEE5970M Terrestrial Biosphere in the Earth System

15 creditsClass Size: 60

Module manager: Dr Cat Scott

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

Pre-requisite qualifications

Physical Science background (e.g. Physical Geography) required

Module replaces


This module is approved as an Elective

Module summary

By the end of this module students will have an understanding of the interactions between the terrestrial biosphere, climate and atmospheric composition. They will understand the important physical, biological and chemical processes through which terrestrial ecosystems affect and are affected by climate. This will include knowledge of biosphere-atmosphere couplings of carbon, water and energy and the interactions between ecosystems and climate. The module will also explore the policy implications of ecosystem – climate interactions. The module includes the opportunity to explore topical research questions using a global vegetation model.


This module is designed to give students an understanding of the importance of the terrestrial biosphere within the Earth System. The module will explore the physical, chemical and biological processes through which terrestrial ecosystems affect and are affected by climate. The module will also cover human alterations to the terrestrial biosphere including policy relevant themes of climate adaptation and mitigation. Specific topics will include the cycling of water, energy and chemical elements, the global carbon cycle, biome shifts under climate change, deforestation and land-use change. The module has been designed around research-led lecture material and includes the opportunity for the student to explore topical research questions using a global vegetation model. The module is interdisciplinary and will be of interest to students studying ecology, environmental science and management, atmospheric science and geography.

Learning outcomes
Students will gain an understanding of:
- The physical, chemical and biological interactions between the terrestrial biosphere and atmosphere
- Ways in which the terrestrial biosphere affects and is affected by climate
- Drivers and impacts of land-use change and its policy relevance

Skills outcomes
- numerical interpretation and presentation of data
-analysis of numerical environmental data
- numerical modelling
- collection of field data
- communication of scientific information to a non-specialist audience


- Surface radiation budget and energy balance
- Biosphere-atmosphere couplings of carbon, water and energy
- Evapotranspiration
- Ecosystem-atmosphere CO2 exchanges
- Soil carbon and fluxes
- Climate – vegetation interactions
- Dynamic Global Vegetation Models
- Global fire patterns
- Emissions of trace gases and atmospheric composition
- Vegetation change through Earth’s history
- Land use change and impacts on climate
- Climate adaptation and mitigation, Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours120.00
Total Contact hours30.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Private study

To include independent reading around lecture materials to support learning, continuation of analysis from computer workshops and writing up pieces of coursework.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students have the opportunity to gain verbal feedback on their ideas, experiment design and results during the computer classes with staff and demonstrators and during a tutorial before submission of their reports. We will provide written feedback on the assessed coursework.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Computer ExerciseWritten policy brief based on results from computer workshops40.00
ReportJournal article style write up of fieldtrip and analysis during computer workshops60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Students will analyse environmental observations using a Python jupyter notebook and explore the impacts of deforestation in the Amazon. This exercise gives students hands-on understanding of the complexities of ecosystem-atmosphere interactions and will be written up in the style of a policy brief, giving students an opportunity to curate and present appropriate scientific content for a non-academic audience. A fieldtrip will be taken to Gair Wood, the University of Leeds research woodland in north Leeds. Working in groups, students will collect measurements from the trees. In a follow up computer workshop this data will be collated and screened by the class, then analysed individually. Field trip and workshops will be supervised by academic staff and postgraduate demonstrators. The workshops will be assessed through two pieces of written coursework.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 04/04/2024


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