Climate, Soils and Land Use - (15 credits)

Soils and climate are the master factors that determine the types and abundance of plants on earth, and ultimately, the survival of all dependent organisms including humans. Through human history, but more particularly in the last 100 years, human disturbance has fundamentally changed environmental conditions in the natural world, including global climate. This module will broadly examine the combination of environmental factors that enable plants & other organisms to survive on earth. Selected biogeographical regions will be investigated in more detail to better understand specific attributes of soil, moisture availability, topography and climate that set constraints on plant distribution and survivorship. Changes to environmental conditions ultimately affect plant survivorship, and the ability of a plant to adapt and withstand change have important implications to global biodiversity and human well-being. This module will also explore the forces of change with a specific focus on the last 100 years of human-induced impacts on climate, land use patterns, soils and water systems. Through small scale, indoor plot trials students will be able to investigate site specific conditions in soils that affect growth and survivorship in various selected plants. Students will discover how the nature of soil is a prime factor in determining the ability of a site to support the growth of a range of plants, and how this might determine and limit productivity. Experimental manipulation of soil fertility, porosity and moisture availability will facilitate practical understanding about plants and the environment.