Terrestrial Ecosystems

Welcome to the Biol 416 webpage

Please note that the pre-requisites for BIOL 416 are listed in the academic calendar as BIOL 303 or GPHY 319, but that BIOL 302 is also an acceptable equivalent alternative if you are really keen to take this course.


The ecosystem approach to ecology treats organisms and the physical aspects of their environment as components of a single integrated system. Terrestrial ecosystem functioning is governed by interactions amongst animals, plants, and soil organisms, as well as exchanges of energy and resources with the atmosphere, soils, rocks, and aquatic environments. This advanced undergraduate level ecology course is focused on plant-soil interactions as being a fundamental determinant of the structure and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems around the world. As a group, we will attempt to synthesize recent advances arising from the ecosystem approach with established ecological theory to describe and explain ecosystem-level patterns and processes in the terrestrial environment. Since human activities are now having increasingly pervasive and dominant effects on natural ecosystems, the course will include an examination of global change issues in the context of landscape-level dynamics in space and time, and whole Earth biogeochemistry. In that context, the course content for 2014/15 in particular will be centered around the following thematic question:  What are the problems associated with current farm management practices in agroecosystems, and how can they be realistically and sustainably addressed?

Learning outcomes:
By the end of this course, the student should be able to

  1. Explain and evaluate the major concepts underlying terrestrial ecosystem ecology
  2. Describe and contrast the major processes and features that distinguish local terrestrial ecosystem-types
  3. Present a synthetic, logical and individualistic seminar on a fundamental issue in terrestrial ecosystem ecology
  4. Develop, conduct, analyse, and write a lab/field research study that addresses a student-inspired question in terrestrial ecosystem ecology that applies to this region.

Paul Grogan
E-mail: groganp@queensu.ca
Office: Room 2508. Tel. (613) 533 6152. Fax: (613) 533 6617
Lab: Rooms 2605, 2606. Tel. (613) 533 6000 ext. 78101
Lab web page: Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology lab page


Lecture times: Tuesdays 08.30-10.00; Fridays 10.00-11.30
Lab/field trip times: Mostly alternate Mondays: 11.30-14.30; Overnight weekend field course on October 18-19

Lab Instructor: Nishka Wright

Location: Room 3110, (Labs 3311) Biosciences building


5% Field trip presentation
10% Participation in discussions
10% Seminar questions
25% Seminar
25% Research report

25% Final exam

Required textbook: Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology. 2011. 2nd edition. Chapin, F.S. III, Matson, P.A. and Vitousek, P. Springer.

Schedule (to be updated throughout the course):
Lecture/Seminar sessions are 80 minutes; Labs up to 3 hours

Week Day and time Convenor Topic Reading
08 Sept Monday 11.30 - LAB Nishka Field trip to Bellevue House farm garden  
  Tuesday, 08.30 Paul Introduction: The Ecosystem Concept Chapin et al, Chapter 1: 1-11,17-22
  Friday, 10.00 Paul The Climate System Chapin et al, Chapter 2: 23-26, 40-41, 50-61
15 Sept Monday 11.30 - LAB Nishka Politics- How it can shape science  
  Tuesday, 08.30 Paul Soil Development Chapin et al, Chapter 1: 13-17; Chapter 3: 63-69
  Friday, 10.00 Paul Soil Transformations, and Physical Properties Chapin et al, Chapter 3: 73-78, 82-85
22 Sept Monday 11.30 - LAB Nishka/Paul Field trip to local farm  
  Tuesday, 08.30 Paul Soil Chemical Properties Chapin et al, Chapter 3: 86-89
  Friday, 10.00 Paul The Biology of Soils I  
29 Sept Monday 11.30 - LAB Nishka Proposal development; Lab tour; Guest lecture by Casper Christensen  
  Tuesday, 08.30 Paul The Biology of Soils II Chapin et al, Chapter 7
  Friday, 10.00 Paul Decomposition, and Plant-Soil interactions Chapin et al, Chapters 7, 8
6 Oct Monday 11.30 - LAB Nishka Proposal development  
  Tuesday, 08.30 Paul Trophic dynamics, and Herbivory Chapin et al, Chapter 10
  Friday, 10.00      
13 Oct Tuesday, 08.30      
  Friday, 10.00      
18 Oct Overnight field trip   Field visits to a bog, alvar, coniferous forest, deciduous forest, wetland, and farms  
19 Oct Overnight field trip   Field research projects  
20 Oct Tuesday, 08.30      
  Friday, 10.00      
27 Oct. Tuesday, 08.30      
  Friday, 10.00      
3 Nov. Tuesday, 08.30      
  Friday, 10.00      
10 Nov. Monday 11.30 - LAB Nishka Statistical analyses of project data  
  Tuesday, 08.30      
  Friday, 10.00      
17 Nov. Tuesday, 08.30      
  Friday, 10.00      
24 Nov. Tuesday, 08.30 Paul Sustaining socio-ecological systems Chapin et al, Chapter 15
  Friday, 10.00 Paul Synthesis  

Click here to see the course structure and topics addressed in previous years (2007 and 2008, 2010)


Last Updated: 15 Aug 2014