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LEC.420: Biological Effects of Air Pollution and Climate Change

Department: Lancaster Environment Centre NCF Level: FHEQ/QCF/NQF7//RQF7
Study Level: Postgraduate (Masters level) Credit Points: 15
Start Date: 12-01-2015 End Date: 13-02-2015
Available for Online Enrolment?: Y Enrolment Restriction: Fully available to all students
Module Convenor: Professor WJ Davies

Syllabus Rules and Pre-requisites

Curriculum Design: Outline Syllabus



    Week 1           Climate change: science, politics and polemics

    In this combination of an introductory lectures and workshops, you will have the opportunity to assess "primary data" on global warming and assess how this baseline data relates to treatment of the topic by politicians and the media.  The course work assessment will also be introduced this week.

    Week 2           Ozone depletion, ultraviolet light and biological responses.

    These lectures will consider the history of "the ozone hole" the underlying causes and provide a "the state of the art" overview on current understanding of how loss of ozone may affect both ecosystems and human health via increases in UV-B radiation.

    Week 3           Elevated CO2, effects on ecosystems: seeing the woods for the trees.

    Elevated CO2 remains the most obdurate element of environmental change resulting not only in increased temperatures but having direct effects on plants and vegetation.  These lectures will consider the balance of CO2 effects in terrestrial ecosystems, considering especially interactions between vegetation and soils.

    Week 4           Tropospheric air pollutants and effects on biological systems

    These lectures will consider air pollutants in the lower atmosphere (troposphere), notably ozone pollution. Tropospheric ozone remains a major element of local and regional pollution, reducing air quality with wide-ranging ecological consequences.

    Week 5           verviews and conclusions.

    This workshop-based session will review the key issues covered by the course, including specific topics identified by students as being of particular significance. v

  • 50% Exam
  • 50% Coursework

Assessment: Details of Assessment

  • Assessment:
    CWA 100%
    Details of CWA. There will be one piece of course work, in which a topic of the student's choice will be presented in the style of a concise briefing document.  A balance is required between effective use of the primary literature and communication in an accessible style, and obtaining this balance forms part of the learning process.

Educational Aims: Subject Specific: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

  • The biological impacts of gaseous air pollutants and other aspects of global environmental change will be discussed, the principal focus being on ecosystems, forests and crops. A certain amount of background information on atmospheric chemistry and deposition processes will be provided to support the understanding of pollutant uptake by organisms, which precedes most physiological effects on biota. Selected effects of exposure to air pollution, elevated UV-B levels and climate change at the biochemical, physiological, organismal and ecosystem level will be considered in detail. The subsequent assignment will provide experience of providing a comprehensible written expression of the scientific complexities surrounding an issue of significant public concern.


    You will acquire some understanding of several aspects of the history of anthropogenic air pollution, and of current issues concerning damage to biological systems.  There will be an opportunity to try to explain to non-scientists the extent of, and the limitations to, our current understanding of these issues.


Learning Outcomes: Subject Specific: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

  • You will obtain a balanced knowledge of the current state of knowledge concerning key elements of global change and the ability to critically assess the data and less formal information relating to the subject. You will gain experience of preparing concise reports that present complex information in a style accessible to a non-specialist audience.

Contact Information

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