Guide to the Module

This guide is meant to help you navigate this module.

The module is divided into Units, i.e., sections that are thematically coherent and that could, if necessary, stand alone. In addition, the module contains a Reference Section, Supporting Materials and an Appendix. The Supporting Materials can be used to facilitate the teaching of this module or simply to augment it with interesting ideas and information. Additional sections with further information may or may not be present, e.g., a list of acronyms, or a glossary. A separate section on Active Pedagogy comes with every module purchase.

Each Unit consists of Background Information that can be used as a hand-out for students or as the basis for an in-class presentation; an Instructor's Guide, consisting of suggestions on how to teach the various learning activities associated with a given Unit; Student Worksheets; and the Answers expected for each activity.

Each activity has its own Student Worksheet for ease of preparing hand-outs for students.

The activities are geared toward the theme(s) and concepts discussed in a particular Unit. The particular skills and themes emphasized vary among the activities. Choose one or more activities per unit to fit your class size, time, resources, overall course topics, and student skill levels. Be sure to vary the types of activities you choose throughout the module.

Summary: Living in the Biosphere: Production, Pattern, Population, and Diversity

Biogeography examines questions of organism inventory and pattern, organisms' interactions with the environment, and the processes that create and change inventory, pattern, and interactions. What organisms are present in the assemblage of a space is an inventory question. The productivity of that space is a question of the environmental interactions of the organisms there. The question of an organism's distribution in differing abundance is a pattern problem. This module uses time series maps and simple simulation models to illustrate how human actions alter biological productivity patterns at local and global scales. The module also demonstrates how human alterations of land cover change the dispersal processes that affect the distribution patterns and diversity of organisms.

Module Objectives

Students will develop an understanding of

  • the differences among major terrestrial biomes;
  • the concepts of nutrient mass budgets, food web linkages and efficiencies, and organism dispersal processes;
  • the impacts of climate, land cover, and resource management changes on the inventory, functioning, and patterns of biological organisms;
  • human and non-human intrusions in nutrient transfers in the food web and organism dispersal;
  • the advantages and limits of simulation modeling as a way of knowing.

The module builds the following skills:

  • interpreting flow charts;
  • understanding of the distribution of world climates and soils;
  • analyzing and interpreting maps;
  • using spreadsheet software to simulate spatial differences in nutrient budgets of the biosphere;
  • performing geographical analysis of spatial patterns of organisms;
  • analyzing simple sensitivity experiments of human intrusions into the environment;
  • empathizing with other organisms and other cultures.

The activities in this module include:

  • detecting personal links to distant biomes
  • modeling nutrient cycling and human intrusions in the food web in a spreadsheet;
  • detection of geographic patterns and their underlying processes, using maps and other types of information;
  • graphic analysis of modeling experiments of human intrusions in the dispersal process.
Human Dimensions of Global Change Concepts
  • human alteration of biological processes
  • biodiversity
  • land use and land cover change
Geographical Concepts
  • geographic scales (local to global)
  • (changes in) pattern and diversity as results of processes
  • space, context, and distance
  • Spatial differences in environmental characteristics
  • nature-society relations
Time Requirements
  • 4 class days (assuming that all units are used and one or two activities per unit are completed)
Material Requirements
  • Student Worksheets (provided)
  • Windows-based spreadsheet like Quattro Pro 5.0 or Excel
  • Animator Player Program (provided)
  • Africanized Honey Bee animated map sequence (provided)
  • Glacial animated map sequence (provided)
  • Grass migration animated map sequence (provided)
  • Tree migration animated map sequence (provided)
  • NUTCY4 spreadsheet model (provided)
  • DIVERSE3 spreadsheet model (provided)
  • Pencils
  • Paper
  • Readings (some are provided)

Moderately challenging. The module requires some basic conceptual understanding of ecology and geography, and uses a spreadsheet, but does not ask students to undertake complicated modeling. The challenge lies in depicting and establishing connections between processes and patterns, as well as between human actions and local-to-global environmental change.

Module Overview

How do the biological resources of a place respond to proximate human activities such as cutting trees, building cities, or cultivating fields and to more distant human actions and decisions such as the pricing of hamburger or the enactment of laws affecting land and resource use? Human activity can transform the environment by enhancing, halting, or modifying environmental processes; humans also react to those transformations by adapting to changed environments. In short, humans interfere with various energy flows and mass transfers and thereby alter local-to-global nutrient flows and the distribution patterns, diversity, and abundance of species.

This module examines the links between (1) the human dimensions of global environmental change (including causes, impacts, and responses), and (2) biogeographic patterns and dynamics. The focus is on the scale at which each of the processes occur, ranging from the molecular or submolecular level for abiotic processes to the global scale for disturbance and dispersal processes. The module focuses on how changes in a process at particular geographic scales affect biological production, pattern, population, and diversity of organisms. The material in this module also treats ecology explicitly in its spatial context, i.e., it includes the exchanges of mass, energy, and genetic materials across boundaries and scales. Boundary conditions are recognized as dynamic, and exchanges with environs depend on the attributes of the surrounding spaces in all directions.

This module focuses on four fundamental areas of biogeography that are linked to environmental variability and change:

The goal is for students to become familiar with the concepts of nutrient mass budgets, food web linkages and efficiencies, and organism dispersal processes as a basis for studying the impacts of climate, land cover, and resource management changes on the inventory, functioning, and patterns of biological organisms. In the module activities, students use maps, simulation models, and other means to relate human actions to changes in the biotic environment.

Overview of Module Activities

The activities in this module are designed to teach some basic concepts, problems, and methods of Human Dimensions of Global Change (HDGC) research. In addition, students learn some fundamental learning, communication, and research techniques.

A variety of activities is offered in each unit. You should select those activities that are feasible for your class, according to class size, students' abilities, institutional facilities and resources, etc.

Organizational Note
The activities section in each unit has three parts: an Instructor's Guide, Student Worksheets, and an Answers section (again for the instructor). For example, Unit 1 is accompanied by Activities 1.1 through 1.5. The Instructor's Guide for this unit outlines suggested readings, material requirements, the skills taught in each activity, learning outcomes, and a detailed description of the tasks students have to complete and how to teach the suggested activities with possible alternatives and variations. The Student Worksheets (one per activity) are meant as hand-outs to students; they provide the necessary instructions for each activity. The Answers section lists expected results of each activity, i.e., either specific results or points to look for in students' answers. See the Guide to this Module for an overview of how the individual parts of this module fit together and could be used.