< BIOL405 : Biological Effects of Air Pollution and Climate Change

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BIOL405 : Biological Effects of Air Pollution and Climate Change

Department:Lancaster Environment Centre
Level:Postgraduate (Masters level)
Learning Hours:150
Credit Points:15
Course Convenor:Professor WJ Davies

Assessment Rules

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  • 50% Exam
  • 50% Coursework

Curriculum Design: Outline Syllabus

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Week 1            Climate change: science and politics

In this combination of an introductory lectures and workshops, you will have the opportunity to assess  data on global warming and its effects on matters of day to day concern. We will also assess  treatment of this topic by politicians and the media.  The course work assessment will also be introduced this week.

Climate change effects on human health: impacts, adaptation and mitigation

Week 2             Air pollutants: plants as our garbage chutes.

Atmospheric deposition processes of gaseous pollutants and mediation of their uptake into leaves by plants

Week 3            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 4         Interacting effects of ozone and other abiotic stresses

a)    Plants. These lectures will deal with the interacting effects of different stresses within a changing climate. Impacts of these effects on global food security will be the focus of this section of the course. A case study on the Indo-Gangetic plain will illustrate how both science and social science are needed to help ameliorate the effects of climate on food supply for the region

b)    Human Health. Effects of major air pollutants and particulate matter on cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems, skin effects, cancer and artherosclerosis.

Week 5            Acidifying pollutants: it's crystal clear, isn't it? Effects of acidifying pollutants on vegetation and ecosystems


Educational Aims: Subject Specific: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

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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

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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.

Assessment: Details of Assessment

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CWA 50% Exam 50%
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.
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