The University of Southampton

BIOL6028 Global Change Biology

Module Overview

Ecological processes impact on individuals, populations and communities. Evolution typically happens over long time periods. Still, ecology and evolution are interlinked and influence each other in many different ways. In this module, we will examine various ways in which ecology and evolution interact. The module will be taught by a number of different staff, and will reflect their current research interests. It will begin by presenting rocky shores as tractable experimental systems for community ecology, and give an overview of work on the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem level processes. Then we will focus on the early evolution of birds, their flight, and aspects of dinosaur ecomorphology. We will also discuss the ways in which evolutionary trees are constructed so that hypotheses about the interplay between ecology and evolution can be developed. This will be followed by exploring the different ways in which interacting organisms can influence each other’s evolution, and how coevolution manifest itself in different types of interactions. Finally, we will focus on age- and stage-structured populations, changes in selection pressures and fitness, and how these changes impact on population dynamics. Varied though the topics in this module are, they all highlight the interaction between ecology and evolution.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

To provide: a) An understanding of current global change, in relation to anthropogenic influences b) To quantify the impacts of change, particularly atmospheric CO2, drought and temperature changes on biological systems c) To provide examples from molecular through to ecosystem on the likely impacts on change, using both animals and plants for case studies d) To provide an overview of the ecosystem services concept and the methodological approaches to quantifying and mapping ecosystem services.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Definition of recent global changes and alterations occurred and predicted for atmospheric CO2, temperature and rainfall
  • Have an in-depth understanding that can be integrated across the subject
  • Understanding of the likely effects of raised atmospheric CO2 and temperature on biological systems – terrestrial, coastal, marine
  • Understanding the likely impact of change on future food and biofuel supplies
  • Understand how species differ in their response to change
  • Understanding of the concept of ecosystem services
  • Understanding and application of ecosystem services methodological approaches
  • Examine relationships between ecosystem services and biodiversity
  • Understand the importance of ecosystem services for poverty alleviation
  • Understand cutting edge models being used for predicting future patterns of ecosystems services under climate change


This course will consider current global climate change and the impact that change is having on biological systems. We will begin by considering the main greenhouse gases and how temperature and rainfall are likely to change over future decades. The responses of biological systems to increased temperature, altered rainfall and the major greenhouse gas, CO2 will then be considered, beginning with plastic acclimation to change, followed by adaptive mechanisms and microevolution. A series of case studies will move from molecule to cell to organism, populations and communities. Both plants and animals will be considered and the latest research findings presented, including options for mitigating the impacts of change using biological systems and adaptations to change. The second part of the course will focus on ecosystem services – the benefits humans obtain from ecosystems. We will first focus on methodological approaches used to map and value ecosystem services, and the examine key issues in this area such as the relationship between ecosystem services and biodiversity, the importance of ecosystem services for poverty alleviation, as well as cutting edge models for modeling and projecting future patterns of ecosystem services under climate change scenarios.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures and occasional seminars, including the research seminars of Biological Sciences independent study.

Independent Study123
Total study time150



MethodPercentage contribution
Research proposal  (5000 words) 75%
Written report  (1200 words) 25%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%
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