Skip to main content


Island Ecology

Module titleIsland Ecology
Module codeJBIM004
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) Ecological Processes and Interactions on Islands and 2) Island Palaeoecology. The first part of the module focuses on the exclusive ecological processes occurring on islands, including the species impoverishment, disharmony and relictualism that created a scenario of attenuated interspecific competition yielding to issues such as species relaxation, ecological release or density compensation. The second part of the module examines more deeply both palaeoecology methods and results of the reconstruction of the ecological scenarios that existed in different oceanic islands in the near and remote past, and the conditions that have been created current biodiversity composition and distribution.

Module aims - intentions of the module

Island Ecology and Palaeoecology are the basis of all the differential processes that distinguish the ecological scenario, and thus the species composition and distribution patterns, between islands and continents. An introduction to the present and past conditions ruling in islands worldwide is thus indispensable for the proper knowledge and understanding of the islands singularities that have created such specific biotic assemblages though time, as is demonstrated by its huge endemicity rates, both of neoendemic and palaeoendemic species. The value of learning the methods of the insular palaeoecological reconstruction, themselves of highest interest, will also contribute to the understanding of the on-going global change scenario and possible fate of islands.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Describe in detail the origin of the singularity of oceanic island ecology and the patterns and products that such singularity can create on the insular biotic assemblages
  • 2. Discuss the differences among island and mainland pollination and dispersal connectance networks
  • 3. Summarise the differences existing between palaeo- and neoendemic species features and distributions

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

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: ecological processes and interactions on islands
  • Exclusive ecological processes working on islands

o Insular communities features
o The islands as competition experiments

  • Relaxation and ecological release
  • Pollination and dispersal networks on islands
  • The emergence of island super-generalists and of bizarre mutualisms
  • Secondary dispersal and the double service

o Habitat fragmentation and metapopulation dynamics

  • Short introduction: island paleoecology
  • What is natural?

o Oceanic islands as the last regions of the planet colonised by humans
o Quantifying the impact of human arrival on the pristine insular nature

  • Ecological baselines
  • The fossil record as a clue for the restoration of habitats and ecological interactions on islands

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 Teaching30Lectures – class based activities and lectures
Guided Independent Study60Pre-reading for lectures – accessible via UoE VLE
Guided Independent Study60Writing up and finishing assessments


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 words1-2,4,6Written
Examination501.5 hours3,5,7Written


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-2,4,6Four weeks from the date feedback was given
ExaminationExamination3,5,7Four 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

Pre-reading texts:

  • Gorman, Martin. 1979. Island ecology. London: Chapman & Hall.
  • Whittaker, Robert J., and José María Fernández-Palacios. 2007. Island biogeography: Ecology, evolution and conservation. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Walsh, Stephen J., and Carlos F. Mena, eds. 2013. Science and conservation in the Galápagos Islands: Social and ecological interactions. Berlin: Springer.
  • Wilkinson, D. M. 2004. The parable of Green Mountain: Ascension Island, ecosystem construction and ecological fitting. Journal of Biogeography 31:1–4.

Key texts:

  • Checke, and Hume. 2008. Lost land of the Dodo: An ecological history of Mauritius, Réunion and Rodrigues. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press.
  • Fernández-Palacios, José María, and Carlo Morici, eds. 2004. Ecología insular/Island Ecology. Santa Cruz de La Palma, Spain: Cabildo Insular de La Palma.
  • Fernández-Palacios, José María, and José Luis Martín Esquivel, eds. 2001. Naturaleza de las Islas Canarias: Ecología y conservación. Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Spain: Editorial Turquesa.
  • Juan, Carlos, Brent C. Emerson, Pedro Oromí, and Godfrey M. Hewitt. 2000. Colonization and diversification: Towards a phylogeographic synthesis for the Canary Islands. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 15:104–109.
  • Kunkel, Günther, ed. 1976. Biogeography and ecology in the Canary Islands. The Hague: Dr. Junk.
  • Marshall, Andrew J., and Bruce M. Beehler. 2007. The ecology of Papua, Part One and Part Two. Singapore: Periplus.
  • Serrano, Artur R. M., Paulo A. V. Borges, Mário Boieiro, and Pedro Oromí, eds. 2010. Terrestrial arthropods of Macaronesia: Biodiversity, ecology and evolution. Lisbon, Portugal: Sociedade Portuguesa de Entomología.
  • Ziegler, A. C. 2002. Hawaiian natural history, ecology, and evolution. Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Press.

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Islands, ecology, pollination, paleoecology, oceanic, insular, fossil, restoration, habits 

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date