The University of Southampton

ENVS2003 Freshwater Ecosystems

Module Overview

Freshwater Ecosystems aims to provide a formal training in freshwater ecosystems available to students registered with the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment. The course also provides a good background for students undertaking research on freshwater ecosystems for their final year dissertation project. Freshwater Ecosystems is intended to be a “stand alone” unit to be taken at level two. Final year students wishing to back-track to this unit (level 2) may do so but need to ensure that they meet requirements for their degree programmes. There are no formal prerequisites, but some knowledge of biology, geography and/or chemistry would provide useful background. The module initially considers the interplay between the physics, chemistry and biology of freshwater ecosystems. A comparative approach is adopted, in which upland streams, lowland rivers, lakes and other standing freshwater environments are considered. Emphasis is placed on the relationships between physics, chemistry and biology, and the differences in these relationships in contrasting freshwater environments. The first section of the programme addresses the issue of shallow lake ecology and restoration that underpins the assignment for this unit. The second part of the course focuses on fluvial (river) systems, and the third the ecology and management of freshwater fish. Theoretical aspects of fish ecology are supported by case study seminars given by guest speakers who work in the field. The module finishes by examining the interactions of humans with freshwater ecosystems. First, impacts of human exploitation of freshwater resources are considered. Focus is then shifted to abstraction and impoundment of water, with emphasis on impacts and management.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aim of the course is to provide students with an understanding of freshwater ecosystems and the factors influencing their ecosystem function.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The need for both a multi-disciplinary and an interdisciplinary approach in advancing knowledge and understanding of Earth systems, drawing, as appropriate, from the natural and the social sciences
  • The processes which shape the natural world at different temporal and spatial scales and their influence on and by human activities
  • The terminology, nomenclature and classification systems used in environmental science
  • Methods of acquiring, interpreting and analysing environmental science information with a critical understanding of the appropriate contexts for their use
  • Issues concerning the availability and sustainability of resources, for example, the different value sets relating to the Earth's resources as commodities and/or heritage
  • The contribution of environmental science to debate on environmental issues and how knowledge of these forms the basis for informed concern about the Earth and its people
  • The contribution of environmental science to the development of knowledge of the world we live in
  • The applicability of environmental science to the world of work
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Recognising and using subject-specific theories, paradigms, concepts and principles
  • Analysing, synthesising and summarising information critically, including prior research
  • Collecting and integrating several lines of evidence to formulate and test hypotheses
  • Applying knowledge and understanding to complex and multidimensional problems in familiar and unfamiliar contexts
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Receiving and responding to a variety of information sources (e.g. textual, numerical, verbal, graphical)
  • Preparing, processing, interpreting and presenting data, using appropriate qualitative and quantitative techniques and packages including geographic information systems
  • Using the internet critically as a means of communication and a source of information
  • Developing the skills necessary for self-managed and lifelong learning (e.g. working independently, time management and organisation skills)
  • Identifying and working towards targets for personal, academic and career development
  • Developing an adaptable and flexible approach to study and work
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Planning, conducting, and reporting on environmental investigations, including the use of secondary data
  • Collecting, recording and analysing data using appropriate techniques in the field and laboratory
  • Undertaking field and laboratory investigations in a responsible and safe manner, paying due attention to risk assessment, rights of access, relevant health and safety regulations, and sensitivity to the impact of investigations on the environment and stakeholders
  • Referencing work in an appropriate manner


Week Topic 1-2 Introduction to Freshwater Ecosystems 2-3 Structural and functional ecology of shallow lakes and their restoration 3-5 Large lake & reservoir management 5 The ecology of running waters 6 -9 The ecology of freshwater Fish 9 River restoration & ecology 9 Human impacts on freshwater ecosystems 10 Revision and feedback

Special Features

For students with specials needs, an individual assessment with be made and appropriate arrangements made to ensure they are enabled to benefit from the exercise or an equivalent experience.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: The unit will be delivered by lecture and seminar sessions. The sessions will be delivered by the course co-ordinator and by other contributors from the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, along with case studies presented by other speakers. Learning activities include - Attendance at lectures and seminars. - Self-directed learning - supplementary and complementary to lecture materials. - Private study – research for and preparation of module assignment. - Attendance at a field visit – observations of degradation of urban standing waters - Laboratory practical related to fish health

Wider reading or practice40
Follow-up work10
Completion of assessment task20
Preparation for scheduled sessions14
Supervised time in studio/workshop2
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Good, R.E. & Whigham, D.F. (1978). Freshwater wetlands: ecological processes and management potential. 

Gurnell, A.M. (1995). Changing river channels. 

Lewin, J.J. (1981). British rivers. 

Allan, J.D. (1995). Stream ecology.. 

Petts, G.E. (1996). River flows and channel forms.. 

Boon P.J. & Pringle C.M. (eds) (2009). Assessing the conservation value of Fresh Waters: An International Perspective. 

WWF (Scotland) (2000). Farming and Watercourse Management.. 

Hynes, H.B.N. (1960). The biology of polluted waters.. 

Welcomme, R.L. (1979). Fisheries ecology of floodplain rivers. 

Everard M. (2005). Water Meadows. Forrest Text (289pp).. 

Burns, F.L. (1981). Destratification of lakes.. 

Clegg, J. (1952). The Freshwater life of the British Isles a guide to the plants and invertebrates of ponds, lakes, streams and rivers. 

Roni, P., Hanson, K., Beechie, T., Pess, G., Pollock, M, and Bartley, D. M. (2005). Habitat rehabilitation for inland fisheries: global review of effectiveness and guidance for rehabilitation of freshwater ecosystems.. 

Stumm, W. (1985). Chemical processes in lakes. 

Macan, T.T. & Worthington, E.B. (1972). Life in lakes and rivers. 

Mason, C.F. (1996). Biology of freshwater pollution. 

Rigler, F.H. (1995). Science and limnology. 

Brookes A., & Shields F. D. (eds.) (1996). River channel restoration guiding principles for sustainable projects.. 

Boon P., Calow P. & Petts G. (1992). River Conservation and Management.. 

Hutchinson, G.E. (1957). A treatise on limnology. 

Wootton, R.J. (1998). cology of Teleost Fishes. Kluwer academic publishers. Fish and Fisheries Series 24. 

Kemp, P.S. (2010). Salmonid Fisheries: Freshwater Habitat Management. 

Wheeler, A. (1969). The fishes of the British Isles and North-West Europe. 

Moss, B. (1998). Ecology of freshwaters: man and medium, past to future.. 

Maddock, I., Harby, A., Kemp, P. and Wood, P. (2013). Ecohydraulics: an integrated approach. 

Boon, P.J., Davies, B.R. & Petts, G.E. (2000). Global perspectives on river conservation. 

Boon P.J., Davies B. R., Petts G. E. (eds) (2000). Global Perspectives on River Conservation: Science, Policy and Practice. 

Wetzel, R.G. (2001). Limnology. 

Macan, T.T. (1970). Biological studies of the English Lakes.. 

Petts, G.E. (1984). Impounded rivers, perspectives for ecological management. 

Ward, J.V. & Stanford, J.A. (1979). The ecology of regulated streams. 

Wolfert H.L. (2001). Geomorphological Change and River Rehabilitation - Case studies on Lowland Fluvial Systems in the Netherlands.. 

Harper D.M. & Ferguson A.J.D. (eds) (1995). The Ecological Basis for River Management.. 

Laenen A. & Dunnette, D. (eds.) (1997). River quality dynamics and restoration. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment 40%
Exam  (120 minutes) 60%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment  ( words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Travel Costs for placements

You will need to provide and wear your own suitable clothing when attending field courses, e.g. waterproofs, walking boots. You can purchase these from any source and costs will vary depending on your preference. You will be expected to purchase your own lunch and any additional refreshments. (clothing)

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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