Skip to main content


Island Biogeography

Module titleIsland Biogeography
Module codeJBIM003
Academic year2020/1
Module staff
Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module is divided into two sections: 1) Island Origins and Types and 2) Island Biogeography Theories and Models. The module focuses on the different island origin and types, including the role of past events such as continental drift, Pleistocene glaciations and volcanism in shaping island geography and biotas. Furthermore, this module explores in depth the geographical, biological and ecological determinants of arrival and establishment occurring in both animal and plant colonisation processes, as well as the knowledge of the main island biogeography theoretical models, and composition of past and present island biodiversity and the lessons we can use for reserves delimitation.

Module aims - intentions of the module

Island Biogeography is an essential element for the study of islands and thus essential for both insular and continental biodiversity conservation. Due to the on-going habitat transformation, protected areas actually behaving as isolated entities within a more or less perturbed anthropogenic matrix that act as islands themselves. The module is structured in two different parts: part one introduces islands themselves, including origin, types of islands, such as habitat islands and the abiotic and biotic relevant characteristics; part two explores several complementary theoretical models existing about island biogeography that have been formulated and their role in the design of the establishment of natural reserves.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Compare and contrast the main geographic and biogeographic differences among the different island types
  • 2. Discuss the abiotic and biotic determinants of the island colonisation processes
  • 3. Produce a detailed monitoring plan of the colonisation of an hypothetical emerged oceanic island

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Apply statistical and modelling skills to understand and interpret quantitative analyses using the more important statistical computational tools and packages
  • 5. Analyse scientific results and determine their strength and validity

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Communicate effectively through oral presentations, written reports, posters and scientific publication
  • 7. Demonstrate management skills, such as decision-making, problem definition, project design and evaluation, risk management, teamwork and coordination, and resource and time management
  • 8. Integrate and evaluate information from a variety of sources using state-of-the-art communications

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Short introduction: islands as biogeographical laboratories (islands globally)
  • Types of islands (modes of origin, plate boundary islands, islands in intraplate locations)

o Environmental changes over long timescales (changes in relative sea level, reefs, atolls, and guyots, eustatic changes in sea level, climate change on islands, the developmental history of the Canaries, Hawaii, Aegean Sea)
o The physical environment of islands (topographic characteristics, climatic characteristics, water resources, tracks in the ocean)

  • The island species-area relationship (application to predicting extinction debt)
  • The equilibrium theory of island biogeography (development, evaluation and prospects)
  • The general dynamic model of oceanic island biogeography (development, evaluation and prospects)

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching30Class-based activities and lectures
Guided Independent Study60Pre-reading for lectures – accessible via UoE VLE
Guided Independent Study60Writing up and finishing assessment(s)


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Data analysis exercise 1200 words4-5,8Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay501500 words1-2,7Oral
Examination502 hours3,6Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-2,7Four weeks from the date feedback was given
ExaminationExamination1-3,6-7Four weeks from the date feedback was given

Re-assessment notes

Two assessments are required for this module. In all cases re-assessment will be the same as the original assessment. Where you have been referred/deferred for any form of assessment detailed above you will have the opportunity to retake within the period specified above from the date that feedback was provided.

If you pass re-assessments taken as a result of deferral, your re-assessment will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment and the overall module mark will not be capped.

If you pass re-assessments taken as a result of referral (i.e. following initial failure in the assessment), the overall module mark will be capped at 50%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Key texts:

  • Borregaard, M. K., T. J. Matthews, and R. J. Whittaker. 2015. The general dynamic model: Towards a unified theory of island biogeography? Global Ecology and Biogeography.â?¨
  • Burns, K.C. 2015. A Theory of Island Biogeography for exotic species. American Naturalist 186, 441-451.
  • Losos, and Ricklefs, eds. 2010. The theory of island biogeography revisited. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.â?¨
  • Whittaker, RJ; Fernández-Palacios, JM (2009). Island Biogeography. 2nd edition Lomolino, MV; Riddle, BR; Whittaker, RJ; Brown JH (2016). Biogeography. 5th edition

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Biogeography, islands, biodiversity, conservation, oceanic, reefs, atolls, guyuts

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date