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The University of Southampton

SOES2017 Marine Benthic Ecology

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • Describe and explain how benthic ecosystems are structured from both physical and biological perspectives, with particular reference to marine sediments as habitats and the classification of seafloor assemblages.
  • Define and review how benthic ecosystems function and how benthic organisms adapt to, respond to/ and or regulate their environment.
  • Describe and explain the customary sampling methods used when surveying different marine benthic habitats and/ or targeting specific marine benthic organisms, in order to be able to design a robust experimental approach.
  • Analyse and interpret biological and environmental data from marine benthic habitats using descriptive, univariate and multivariate statistical tests over temporal and spatial scales.
  • Discuss and examine the sources and implications of change in marine benthic ecosystems and the approaches used to mitigate change, with particular reference to disturbance and anthropogenic activities, and the ecosystem consequences of biodiversity loss.


The following subject areas are dealt with during the module: Introduction to sediment processes and the distribution of marine sediment habitats Methods of sampling marine benthic habitats and experimental approaches used in marine benthic ecolog Classification and descriptions of benthic invertebrate communities Species adaptations to living in cohesive and non-cohesive sediments Faunal mediation of ecosystem processes, including benthic-pelagic coupling, microbiological processes and invertebrate-microbial interactions and nutrient cycles in marine sediment Effects of species activity on the sediment profile (Bioturbation and Bioirrigation) Functional trait ecology Organism-sediment interactions and concepts of benthic succession Modifying effects of species and environment interactions on species behaviour and ecosystems functioning Anthropogenic stressors in the marine benthos Assessment of habitat quality Benthic biodiversity Consequences of altered biodiversity for ecosystems functioning

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Formal lectures: the course deals almost exclusively with the ecology of marine sediments. The formal lectures provide a framework outlining the development of methods for studying the benthos and development of theories that have helped our understanding of benthic processes. Many case study examples are provided. We also include interactive activities, practical demonstrations and discussion in most formal sessions. In addition the formal lecture series includes a computer practical where students receive instruction on how to use the software PRIMER for analysing ecological data. the course is accompanied by online supplementary material. Informal Class sessions: We will one session at the end of the semester as a feedback and revision sessions. The latter will include opportunities to revisit aspects of the course in more detail and/or to expand on difficult concepts. A wide range of support is available for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.

Preparation for scheduled sessions12
Wider reading or practice30
Completion of assessment task24
Total study time150


Assessment Strategy

Assessment differs depending on degree pathway


MethodPercentage contribution
Blog 50%
Data Analysis 50%

Linked modules

Prerequisites: SOES1006 or SOES1008

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