ENVSCI 708 : Ecosystem Dynamics


2024 Semester One (1243) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Ecosystems have a critical role in regulating climate, soil, water, and air quality. Basic concepts of ecosystem ecology are introduced and the effects of human-induced changes on ecosystem processes are examined. The dynamics of key ecosystem processes (e.g. carbon and water cycling) and their driving factors are investigated. Students will conduct a research project linking theoretical and practical aspects of ecosystem science.

Course Overview

Ecosystems have a critical role in regulating climate, soil, water, and air quality. Understanding the structure and function of ecosystems is important for understanding environmental challenges such as global warming, biodiversity loss, and pollution. Key topics covered in lectures include principles of ecosystem ecology,  assessing  changes in ecosystem processes, and modern approaches to measure ecosystem functions.  Following a series of introductory classes, students work in teams on topics of their choice. Conducting their own research allows students to witness how new knowledge is created and provides an enriched learning experience through developing effective relationships between students, staff, and place.  Further, students get hands-on experience by using state-of-the-art equipment (in the field and lab). Student projects in 2023 included: greenhouse gas fluxes in urban ecosystems, throughfall characteristics between broadleaf and conifer species, litter decomposition using tea bags, and aboveground carbon stocks.  

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: People and Place
Capability 2: Sustainability
Capability 3: Knowledge and Practice
Capability 4: Critical Thinking
Capability 5: Solution Seeking
Capability 6: Communication
Capability 7: Collaboration
Capability 8: Ethics and Professionalism

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Develop and demonstrate an understanding of the principles of ecosystem ecology (Capability 3 and 5)
  2. Use quantitative methods to assess ecosystem dynamics (Capability 3, 5 and 8)
  3. Work collaboratively to formulate research questions and hypothesis (Capability 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8)
  4. Develop and demonstrate written and oral communications skills for different audiences (Capability 1, 2, 6 and 8)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Research 20% Group Coursework
Reports 40% Individual Coursework
Presentation 40% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4


Tuākana Science is a multi-faceted programme for Māori and Pacific students providing topic specific tutorials, one-on-one sessions, test and exam preparation and more. Explore your options at

As part of the University-wide Tuākana community, The School of Environment Tuākana Programme aims toprovide a welcoming learning environment for, and enhance the success of, all of our Māori and Pacicstudents. We are led by the principles of tautoko (support) and whanaungatanga (connection), and hope yound a home here at the School. Students who have identied as Māori and/or Pacic will receive an invitation toour online portal introducing the Programme, the resources we have available, and how you can get involved.

Key Topics

carbon and nutrient cycling; biodiversity and ecosystem functions, modern approaches to measure ecosystem dynamics, effects of environmental change on the functioning and dynamic of ecosystems

Special Requirements

Field and lab work is a fundamental component of ENVSCI 708

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 seven hours of lectures, three hours of  tutorials, 30 hours of field/lab work,  30 hours of thinking about the content and 80 hours of work on assignments.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at scheduled activities including field and lab classes to complete components of the course.

On-campus lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including tutorials will not be available as recordings.

The course will not include live online events. The activities for the course are scheduled as a 6 week module

Learning 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.

Learning resources will be made available through Canvas.

Health & Safety

Students have to complete field activity plan before conducting field work. 

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.


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 for potential plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct, using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


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.

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 http://disability.auckland.ac.nz

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 https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/students/academic-information/exams-and-final-results/during-exams/aegrotat-and-compassionate-consideration.html.

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

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

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 https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/students/forms-policies-and-guidelines/student-policies-and-guidelines/student-charter.html.


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 students may be asked to submit 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. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 06/11/2023 08:40 a.m.