The University of Southampton

ENVS6003 Freshwater Ecosystems

Module Overview

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 module addresses the issue of shallow lake ecology and restoration. 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

Freshwater Ecosystems (ENVS6003) aims to provide a formal training in freshwater ecosystems available to students registered with the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment. The course may also provide a good background for students taking the ENVS6024 module on River and Fisheries Restoration in semester 2 and for those undertaking research on freshwater ecosystems for their research dissertation after completion of the taught part of the M.Sc. course. There are no formal prerequisites for the course, but some understanding of biology, geography or chemistry would provide useful background. The overall 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:

  • Full appreciation 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
  • Deep understanding of the processes which shape the natural world at different temporal and spatial scales and their influence on and by human activities
  • Strong familiarity with the terminology, nomenclature and classification systems used in environmental science
  • Comprehensive understanding of appropriate methods for acquiring, interpreting and analysing environmental science information
  • Deep understanding of the Issues concerning the availability and sustainability of resources, for example, the different value sets relating to the Earth's resources
  • Deep knowledge of 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
  • Comprehensive understanding of the contribution of environmental science to knowledge
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:

  • Handling and integrating multiple information sources across multiple platforms, including working with databases in the broadest sense
  • Preparing, processing, interpreting and presenting data, using appropriate qualitative and quantitative techniques and packages including geographic information systems to a level suitable for publication
  • Using the internet critically as a means of communication and a source of information
  • Developing the advanced skills needed for self-managed learning (e.g. handling multiple conflicting deadlines; responding rapidly and effectively to change; acquiring self-management and organisation skills)
  • Identifying and working towards targets for personal, academic and career development (e.g. gaining memberships of professional bodies, doing work placements and volunteering)
  • Developing an adaptable and flexible approach to study and work especially to meet targets and deadlines
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 at the level of competence expected of a junior researcher or consultant
  • Collecting, recording and analysing data using appropriate techniques in the field and laboratory and for statistical analysis
  • Carrying out risk and ethics assessments to a high standard before undertaking field and laboratory investigations, and being aware of relevant health and safety regulations, and potential impact of investigations on the environment and people
  • Referencing work to a very high, prescribed standard as expected in a manuscript sent for publication


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

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 (optional). - Laboratory practical related to fish health.

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

Resources & Reading list

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everard M. (2005). Water Meadows. 

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

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

Allan, J.D. (1995). Stream ecology. 

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

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

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

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

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

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. 

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

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

Macan, T.T. & Worthington, E.B. (1951| 1972). Life in lakes and rivers. 

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

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

Lewin, J.J. (1981). British rivers. 

Wetzel, R.G. (2001). Limnology. 

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

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

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

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.. 

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

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

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

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

Wootton, R.J. (1998). Ecology of Teleost Fishes.. 

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



MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework assignment(s)  (3000 words) 40%
Examination 60%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework assignment(s) 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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