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Arctic Ecosystems, 15 Credits

Swedish name: Arktiska Ekosystem

This syllabus is valid: 2023-01-30 and until further notice

Course code: 5BI261

Credit points: 15

Education level: Second cycle

Main Field of Study and progress level: Biology: Second cycle, in-depth level of the course cannot be classified

Grading scale: Three-grade scale

Established by: Faculty Board of Science and Technology, 2022-01-28

Revised by: Faculty Board of Science and Technology, 2023-02-21


The course provides extended knowledge of processes across arctic and subarctic terrestrial ecosystems. It provides understanding of how ecosystem processes are regulated by abiotic and biotic factors, such as nutrient availability, the arctic climate and plant-soil-organism interactions. Particular focus will be on potential impacts of changes in climate on ecosystem processes and on feedback mechanisms from arctic ecosystems to the climate system. The course provides an overview of how controls and impacts on ecosystem processes depend on temporal and spatial scales. Being in and experiencing the arctic environment and its ecosystems is an essential part of the course, and excursions to various ecosystems are included. The course is given by researchers at the Climate Impacts Research Centre in Abisko and has a strong connection to on-going research.
Costs for round trip Abisko and accommodation in Abisko are the responsibility of the student.

Module 1. Theoretical part, 7.5 ECTS credits. This part consists of lectures, seminars and excursions to provide in-depth knowledge and understanding of ecological processes in arctic and subarctic terrestrial environments. Ecological questions are approached from the process through the landscape level and over different time-scales. The impacts of climate change on arctic and subarctic ecosystems and their potential feedbacks are discussed.

Module 2. Project work, 7.5 ECTS credits. This part consists of an extended experimental study of abiotic and biotic processes in an arctic-subarctic terrestrial ecosystem to provide hands-on experience in arctic ecological research. The study is part of long-term field experiments and will be conducted in small groups and consist of a full scientific research cycle, including hypotheses testing based on published literature, planning, field work, analysis of data, and report writing. The hypotheses will be tested and the results will be presented as a written scientific report and at a seminar.

Expected learning outcomes

On completion of the course, for the grade Pass, the student should be able to:

Module 1, Theroretical part
FSR1 Apply an analytical approach to the ecology in the arctic and subarctic environment from a process to a landscape perspective and over different time-scales.
FSR2 Apply an analytical approach to the ongoing and potential future impacts of climate change on arctic and subarctic ecosystems including the terrestrial feedbacks to climate change.
FSR3 Formulate testable hypotheses related to effects of single or two potentially interacting ecological factors on arctic ecosystem processes.
Module 2, Project work
FSR4 Apply a scientific approach to plan and conduct a scientific research project within arctic terrestrial ecology.
FSR5 Acquire, process, analyse and interpret information on ecological processes.
FSR6 Analyse and compare results in relation to published results within the research area.
FSR7 Present the project as a written report and orally in seminars

On completion of the course, for the grade Pass with Distinction, the student should in addition be able to:
FSR8 Critically assess scientific literature to interpret scientific resulats.
FSR9 Crittcally assess scientific litterature to formulate implications or consequences of own and/or published results in a wider perspective.
FSR10 Apply the content of the course to formulate new questions and hypotheses.

Required Knowledge

120 ECTS credits including 60 ECTS in Biology of which 15 ECTS in Ecology or 60 ECTS earth science/physical geography and 15 ECTS in biology, or equivalent knowledge.
Proficiency in English equivalent to Swedish upper secondary course English B/6.
Where the language of instruction is Swedish, applicants must prove proficiency in Swedish to the level required for basic eligibility for higher studies.

Form of instruction

This fulltime course is given by researchers at the Climate Impacts Research Centre and takes place at the Abisko Scientific Research Station. The teaching includes lectures, excursions (including safety instruction), terrestrial ecological field and laboratory techniques. Seminars, excursions and laboratory work are obligatory. An extended project work is obligatory, which includes a written report, seminars and submission of collected research data.

Examination modes

To pass the whole course, all examinations must be passed and obligatory parts performed. Examination of the course is in the form of:
Module 1
- Written exam (Fail, Pass, or Pass with distinction)
- An oral exam in the form of a seminar (Pass or Fail)
Module 2
- Written project report (Fail, Pass, or Pass with distinction)
- A method seminar (Pass or Fail)
- A results seminar (Pass or Fail)
The grades of the course as a whole are Failed, Passed and Passed with distinction.
To receive the grade Passed on the whole course, all graded parts of the course must have at least the grade Passed. To receive the grade Passed with distinction on the whole course, the grade Passed with distinction must have been received on all parts of the course where Passed with distinction can be met.

A student that has passed an exam may not retake it in order to get a higher grade. A student, who has passed two exams for a course or part of a course without an approved result, has the right to have another examiner appointed, unless special reasons speak against it (HF chapter 6, 11b §). Requests for a new examiner are submitted to the head of department of Ecology, Environment and Earth Sciences.

Students have the right to have their previous education or equivalent knowledge and skills acquired in the profession tested whether it can be credited for the corresponding course at Umeå University. Application for credit is submitted to the Student Centre / Examinations. For more information on credit transfer available on Umeå University's student web, www.student.umu.se, and the Higher Education Ordinance (Chapter 6). A refusal of accreditation may be appealed against (Higher Education Ordinance Chapter 12) to the University Appeals Board. This applies to the whole as well as part of the application if accreditation is refused.

CREDIT TRANSFER Credit transfers are always assessed individually. (See the university's guidelines and credit-of-transfer-ordinance.)


The literature list is not available through the web. Please contact the faculty.