Module Details

The information contained in this module specification was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change, either during the session because of unforeseen circumstances, or following review of the module at the end of the session. Queries about the module should be directed to the member of staff with responsibility for the module.
Code ENVS315
Coordinator Prof RHW Bradshaw
Geography and Planning
Year CATS Level Semester CATS Value
Session 2013-14 Level Three First Semester 15


The module aims to demonstrate and review how successful management of modern and future landscapes often requires a long time perspective. Lectures start by summarising the theoretical basis of this assumption and the appropriate methods for reconstructing landscape and processes. These are followed by case studies that review the histories of human activities and landscapes in various parts of the world. Seminars offer the chance for small group work on the integration of different records within specific environments or region, forming the basis for the directed mini-projects that form the major part of the coursework. 

Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes are:

  • a knowledge of appropriate theory about environmental change;
  • a deeper understanding of interactions between human activities and landscape in space and time;
  • a critical view of the assumptions on which landscape management decisions and future modelled states are based;  
  • practical experience of in-depth desk studies of published literature;
  • experience of working in assigned, collaborative project groups with a common aim.



Modern environmental concerns and learning from the past

Palaeoenvironmental/Historical Archives, Mathematical models

Humans and climate: social collapse to global warming

Early humans, settlement, megaherbivores and fire - reversible or irreversible change?

Regional palaeocology: for example, the forests of Scandinavia or the Celtic fringe

Regional records of soil erosion and flooding

Nutrients and biogeochemical cycles

Global hydrological change: climate or human drivers?

Integrated socio-ecological change case-studies: eg. Lac d’Annecy/Erhai

Integrated socio-ecological change at regional level:  eg. Lake District

Modelling the past: data-model comparisons

Anticipating the future:  resilience theory, simulation models

Coursework – small group research on palaeoenvironmental evidence for change in a chosen part of the world (eg. Boreal forest, MesoAmerica, Polynesia) drawing out the main trends and sensitivities to climate and human impact.   Several seminar sessions throughout the module culminate with group presentations.  Individual student write-ups. 

Teaching and Learning Strategies

A small group of introductory lectures (usually 1~2 hours within a 3 hours slot) supported by powerpoint, web-sites and reading lists on VITAL will be followed by weekly clinics where student groups will plan, discuss and present progress within their group projects. The course will finish with oral presentations of the group projects and feedback from marking of the term papers.

Teaching Schedule

  Lectures Seminars Tutorials Lab Practicals Fieldwork Placement Other TOTAL
Study Hours 6



Timetable (if known) tbc
Private Study 112


EXAM Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
CONTINUOUS Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
Group project with individual component. Minimum of 2000 words per student. Contribution of each student to be described.  10 weeks  First   70  yes - next ordinary sitting  Standard University Policy applies - see Department/School handbook for details.   
Oral presentation of term paper with contribution from each group member.  20 minutes  First   10  yes - next ordinary sitting  Standard University Policy applies - see Department/School handbook for details.   
Proposal with detailed plan of term paper    First   20  yes - next ordinary sitting  Standard University Policy applies - see Department/School handbook for details.   

Recommended Texts



Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Assessment Report "Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability" (and new version 2007)

International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) 'Past Global Changes' (PAGES), referrring to Focus 4 PHAROS programme and Newsletters" found under PRODUCTS.

General books

Cotton, W.R. and Pielke, R.A. Sr. 2007. Human Impacts on Weather and Climate. Cambridge University Press.

Diamond, J. 2005. Collapse. Allen Lane.

Lomborg, B. 2007. Solutions for the world's biggest problems. Costs and Benefits. Cambridge University Press.

Lowe, J.J. and Walker, M.J.C. 1997. (2nd Ed) Reconstructing Quaternary Environments. Longman.

Oldfield, F. 2006. Environmental Change. Cambridge University Press.

Redman, C.L. 1999. Human Impact on Ancient Environments. University of Arizona Press.

Roberts, N. 1998. (2nd Ed) The Holocene: an environmental history, Blackwell.

Roberts, N. (ed) 1994. The Changing Global Environment, Blackwell

Ruddiman, W.F. 2005. Plows, Plagues and Petroleum. Princeton University Press.

Wainwright, J. and Muligan, M. (eds). 2004. Environmental Modelling. Wiley.