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The University of Southampton

GEOG3005 Paleoecology and Conservation

Module Overview

The Earth's systems are under severe, unprecedented pressure from climate change and evironmental degradation. Some Geologists consider that we have now enterred a new geological period that they term the Anthropocene, where human impacts have become dominant drivers of global environmental change. In this module we will explore some of the key environmental issues of our time that arise from human activity, such as habitat loss and fragmentation, biome shifts in response to climate change, accelerated extinction rates, ocean warming and acidifciation, the fate of wetlands in a warming world, and wildfires - to name just a selection. We will study these issues and others through the lens of long-term environmental change science. Environmental change studies allow is to understand the context of how ecosystems have developed through time. We can ask 'what is natural?, What are the baselines for particular ecosystems? Have these ecosyems ever experienced environmental changes like those in the modern day before - if so what happened? The module will then consider how we best conserve or enhance ecosystems in a changing world. How can Palaeoecoloigcal data help us? Can we re-wild landscapes and turn the clock back. Can we reintroduce absent species to their ancestral ranges? Can we use appropriate ecosystem manipulation to enhance carbon uptake and achieve global carbon emissions targets? These issues, and others, will be explored through a series of lectures, seminars and a conservation project focused on one of the highlight issues. Assessment will be by (1) A seen essay in timed conditions (50%) and (2) a problem-based conservation project (50%)

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aim of this module is to explore the application of long-term environmental change research to modern nature conservation problems.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The terminology, nomenclature and classification systems used in Palaeoecology and Conservation
  • The nature of change in terrestrial environments and marine environments during the Holocene
  • Knowledge of the development of ideas in Nature Conservation
  • Understanding of the role of Palaeoecology in Conservation
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Critically analyse literature in Palaeoecology and Conservation
  • Assess the merits of contrasting theories and explanations in Palaeoecology and Conservation
  • Abstract and synthesise information from a range of different sources
  • Analyse and critically interpret primary and secondary data
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Pursue knowledge in an in-depth, ordered and mitvated way
  • Produce fluent and comprehensive written reports on complex topics
  • Marshal and retrieve data from library and internet resources
  • Be aware of the role and importance of evidence-based research
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Understand the various ways in which palaeoecological data can be combined and interpreted
  • Understand the importance of data integrity, quality assurance and archiving in field and laboratory contexts


The main areas covered by the module include: • Conservation in a changing world: 'The Conservation Paradox'. • Development of conservation ideas: - Early ideas of preservation and habitat utilization - Benchmarks, baselines and thresholds of concern - Disturbnace, resilience and heterogeneity - Sustainability and multifunctional landscapes • The long view of conservation: the role of Palaeoecology in modern conservation • A long-term perspective on the management of grasslands & large herbivores. • Habitat loss and fragmentation - the case of rainforests and cloud forests. • Rewilding following localised exinctions • Learning from past wildfires to manage fire in the 21st Century • Past, present and future climate change: can Palaeoecology help to manage future climate change? • Wetlands in a warming world • Migrations of biomes in response to climate change • Using Palaeoecology to build a sustainable future: restoring ecosystem services • Can ecosystem management resolve 'The Conservation Paradox'?

Special Features

For features such as field trips, information should be included as to how students with special needs will be enabled to benefit from this or an equivalent experience. Lab work: The module will include a conservation project that may (optionally) involve practical work in the Palaeoecology Laboratory. The laboratory has wheelchair access and accessible desk space for wheelchair users. For visually impaired students there is a repeat display screen halfway down the laboratory. Microscopes are fully adjustable to cope with a very wide range of eye prescriptions. If microscope use is not possible/desirable, desk-based altertive project work will be on offer.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Taught in Semester 2

Independent Study120
Total study time150



MethodPercentage contribution
Exam 50%
Practical Report 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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