BIOSCI 734 : Terrestrial Plant Ecology


2020 Semester Two (1205) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Plants form the autotrophic basis of terrestrial food chains and their distribution, diversity and abundance is a critical determinant of ecosystem functioning. Topics covered include both plant population ecology – including population growth and structure, seed and seedling dynamics, and life history strategies – and community ecology – including vegetation structure, dynamics, and species interactions. Methods to survey, analyse, and model plant populations and communities will also be discussed. A sound understanding of BIOSCI 396 or equivalent is assumed.

Course Overview

BIOSCI 734 is concerned with developing an understanding of the research frontier, and key areas of debate, in our understanding of the mechanisms that determine the composition and structure of plant communities. On completion of this course you will be familiar with advanced concepts in plant population and community ecology, and, implicitly, the modern approaches ecologists use for the collection, analysis/interpretation and synthesis of data. You will also develop skills in the quantitative synthesis of scientific literature.  This knowledge and development of skills will be useful to those wishing to have a career involving terrestrial ecology and environmental science or those interested in research in the field.

A remote version of the course will be provided to students located overseas - please contact course coordinator for details.

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: Master of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Explain and critically evaluate advanced concepts and theory in plant ecology (Capability 1, 2 and 6)
  2. Describe the mechanisms determining plant community structure and function and modern trends in plant ecology research (Capability 1, 2 and 4)
  3. Describe and critique how ecologists collect, interpret and synthesise data (e.g., observation, experiment, models) and use this understanding to develop ecological theory. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  4. Capable of quantitative synthesis and interpretation of ecological data (Capability 1, 2, 4 and 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Oral presentation 20% Individual Coursework
Systematic quantitative literature review 40% Individual Coursework
Field report 30% Individual Coursework
Participation 10% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4
Oral presentation
Systematic quantitative literature review
Field report

Key Topics

The course will cover a series of topics in modern plant ecology and associated methods, including:

  • seed ecology
  • regulation in single species populations
  • the role of competitive and facilitative interactions in structuring plant communities
  • coexistence and the assembly of plant communities
  • disturbance dynamics
  • dispersal ecology

Learning Resources

Readings will be provided over the course via Talis.

Special Requirements

A field-trip for the weekend of 15-16 August (two day-trips in the Auckland region) is planned.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 20 hours of lectures, 15 hours of field work, 30 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 85 hours of work on assignments.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website at

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page:

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter (


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 28/07/2020 05:34 p.m.