ESC-30106 - Extinction!
Coordinator: Michael Montenari Room: WSF10A Tel: +44 1782 7 33162
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 6
Credits: 15
Study Hours: 150
School Office: 01782 733615

Programme/Approved Electives for 2023/24


Available as a Free Standing Elective






Barred Combinations


Description for 2023/24

Planet Earth is currently undergoing dramatic environmental changes accompanied by a severe loss in biodiversity. The overall rate and the magnitude of the loss in biodiversity within the different tiers of the global trophic web is widely considered to indicate the onset of a potentially major extinction event. Knowledge about extinction events, and in particular an understanding of the parameters that initiate and drive extinction processes, is paramount for any attempt of mitigation or even the prevention of extinction. The module is addressing the various aspects of extinction events (background extinction vs. mass extinction vs. global mass extinction [E.L.E.s], causes and triggers, spatial and temporal distribution, dynamic and feedback-systems, ecosystems affected, collapse of the global trophic web and its impact on the global biosphere, recovery, and diversification.

This module will provide you with a detailed knowledge and insight into extinction events by using very well studied deep-time and present-day examples. Employing a multi-disciplinary approach, it will examine in-detail the geological, biological and chemical aspects, investigate the causes and consequences, the dynamic and ultimately the results of extinction events. It aims to provide you with the fundamental background and skills required for the development and evaluation of mitigating and preventive strategies and their implementation.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Quantify and characterize deep time to present day variations in global biodiversity data: 1,2,3
Differentiate between background extinctions, mass extinctions, and global mass extinction (E.L.E.s): 1,2,3
Characterize and evaluate extinction related palaeoecological shifts on a (1) habitat scale (2) ecosystem scale (3) biosphere scale: 1,2,3
Recognize the difference and quantify the ecological effects of (1) singular extinction triggers (2) interrelated extinction triggers (3) cascading and amplifying extinction triggers: 1,2,3
Quantify and estimate the extinction- and recovery dynamics using multi-scaled ecospace models: 1,2,3

Study hours

72h: 2 x 1hr in person lecture, 1 x 2hr in person seminar focus session, 1 x 2 hours additional background information per week.
78h: independent study (recommended are 18 hours on background reading/online teaching materials and 60 hours for the preparation and drafting of the publication-style essay)

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Class Test weighted 10%
Class Test: Extinction - causes and magnitude
An open-book class test on the causes of extinction events and their magnitude (background extinction, regional extinction, mass extinction).

2: Essay weighted 80%
3200 word essay on Precambrian or Phanerozoic extinctions
A 3200 word publication-style essay on either a Precambrian or Phanerozoic extinction event covering the palaeobiological/geological pretext, trigger(s), dynamics, and ecological aftermath (including the recovery phase).

3: Class Test weighted 10%
Class Test: Extinction - effects and ecological consequences
An open-book class test on the effects and ecological consequences of extinction events (with a focus on the different trophic levels affected: local, regional, global)