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The University of Southampton

BIOL3074 Global Challenges in Biology

Module Overview

This module will consider human-caused global challenges and their impact on marine and terrestrial ecosystems. We will discuss the main causes of global change, including greenhouse gases, changes in temperature and rainfall, and human land use, as well as how these changes can subsequently trigger other drivers of change (e.g. ocean acidification, soil characteristics, loss of biodiversity) or social challenges (e.g. food security). Biological responses to these global changes will be considered in terms of how organisms, species and communities may acclimatize, adapt or change. After consolidating understanding of the causes of, and biological responses to, global change, we will consider what these impacts mean for ecosystem structure, function, ecosystem services and natural resource management.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • 1. Demonstrate knowledge of a range of global environmental challenges and their causes 2. Demonstrate an understanding of how global change impacts on ecosystem structure, function and services 3. Demonstrate in-depth knowledge of current approaches for managing and mitigating impacts of global change
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • 1. Evaluate current major global environmental challenges and their causes 2. Evaluate the impacts of global change on biota and ecosystems 3. Analyse the different approaches for addressing global change
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • 1. Critically analyse and evaluate resources and information to form own opinion, arguments, theories and ideas – critical thinking skill 2. Undertake independent research with ability to collate and synthesize information succinctly – research and analytical skill 3. Write effectively for readers from a range of backgrounds – communication skill


This module will cover the following topics: 1. The world’s oceans are a major sink for atmospheric CO2 with implications for sea surface temperature, sea levels and the seawater carbonate chemistry (ocean acidification). We will explore the main causes and ecological consequences of warming, ocean acidification and changing sea levels for marine organisms and habitats. The course will look at individual mechanisms that may allow organisms to acclimatise or adapt to changing environmental conditions in marine systems. 2. Land use change in relation to food security – the course will explore environmental issues surrounding large scale geographic change in term of land use, and ways in which ecological knowledge can be used to maximise food production alongside with biodiversity conservation. 3. Greenhouse gases in relation to climate, land use change, and food production – we will explore the biological processes, primarily microbial, underlying greenhouse gas fluxes from soils and ruminant livestock. The causes of soil degradation will be described and the initiatives/programmes designed to restore soil health and sequester greenhouse gases will be discussed. 4. Ecosystem service change in relation to biodiversity loss – the course will also focus on topical and emotive issues such as loss of biodiversity, degradation of ecosystem services and economic valuation of nature, and provide a sound scientific background to these topics that are seldom out of the public eye. The course will illustrate how the increasingly important ecosystem service framework and interdisciplinary approach can be applied to address global challenges.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, independent study, writing a concise editorial paper (1,200 words) and a final multiple response exam using OnDemand.

Independent Study130
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Web of Science database and e-journals. Web of Science database for literature search and e-journals such as Global Change Biology, Journal of Applied Ecology, Conservation Biology, etc.



Business case or Essay plan


MethodPercentage contribution
Analytical essay  (1200 words) 70%
Assessment  () 30%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

BIOL1003 OR SOES1006


To study this module, you will need to have studied the following module(s):

SOES1006Introduction to Marine Ecology and Evolution
BIOL1003Ecology & Evolution
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