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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Postgraduate Courses (School of GeoSciences)

Postgraduate Course: Soil Protection and Management (PGGE11183)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryIf humanity┐s overarching need for food security and nutrition, climate change mitigation and sustainable development is to be met, soil resources have to be given the global attention they deserve Moujahed Achouri, Director of the FAO Land and Water Division.

Soils are a vital resource for food, fibre, fuel; climate regulation; provide habitats and support biodiversity; important component of flood regulation and water quality; provide foundations or infrastructure and cultural heritage. In the Soil Protection and Management course we introduce you to the major functions of soil, the challenges soils face in a changing world and strategies to improve sustainable soil use.
This course begins with Dr Sarah Buckingham providing an introduction to what soils are, their composition, key characteristics and formation of different soil types and the range of soil functions and ecosystem services they provide. What constitutes a ┐healthy┐ soil are outlined, leading to discussions on the major causes of soil degradation threatening soil health and quality globally. The role of soil systems and land use in greenhouse gas mitigation and climate regulation is reviewed in week 3 where concepts of greenhouse gas trade-offs and net-zero emissions are explored. Dr Saran Sohi of the UK Biochar Research Centre will provide an insight into soil management through the use of biochar applications, which helps to highlight the role of innovation techniques in soil management and carbon sequestration and how these can be applied globally. Prof Bob Rees will extend upon this to compare issues in soil management of different regions, for example sub-Saharan Africa and China. Dr Joanna Cloy will then provide more practical guidance on the importance of soil fertility, structure and physical condition, and biological activity and its importance in agriculture and food production. Dr Chris Smillie will discuss management techniques to prevent land degradation by toxic element contamination, salinization, soil erosion and techniques to promote restoration of contaminated and disturbed land will be considered.
Course description When: Monday 14:00 - 17:00 GMT, Semester 1
Location: Online (on-campus activities subject to feasibility depending on Governmental guidelines at the time). All of week 1 will be online with on-campus activities announced when confirmed.
*Note: During 2020-2021, a hybrid model of teaching will be used in response to the impact and constraints of the Covid-19 pandemic. This model enables students to transition easily between online and on campus education as required. Therefore lectures will be pre-recorded with students expected to watch lectures prior to sessions on Mondays at 14.00, where there will be a Q&A relating to the lecture material and some additional tutorials. These sessions will be a mixture of online and on-campus activities where feasible.
Lecture Theme
Content Description
Week 1
Fundamentals of Soil Science
Soil formation, composition and development. Soil characterisation and key properties. Soil Functions and Ecosystem Services
Dr Sarah Buckingham, SRUC
Week 2
Pressures and Threats to Soil Systems
What are healthy soils? What causes soil degradation? Overview of major threats to soil systems (erosion, sealing, acidification, salinisation) and impacts of climate change
Dr Sarah Buckingham, SRUC
Week 3
Soils, land use, and mitigating climate change
Soil carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions. Introduction to peatlands and agroforestry
Dr Sarah Buckingham, SRUC
Week 4
Novel techniques in soil management: Biochar
Biochar production, application and implications. Mechanistic understanding of biochar function in soil management over a range of environments
Dr Saran Sohi, University of Edinburgh
Week 5
Soils in Sub-Sahara Africa and China
A comparison between soil systems of sub-Saharan Africa and China. The challenges of soil management in these environments
Prof Bob Rees, SRUC
Week 6
Management of Soil Physical Conditions
Management of soil physical conditions and soil water: Soil quality indicators and Visual Evaluation of Soil Structure (VESS). Lecture and Laboratory session
Dr Joanna Cloy, SRUC
Week 7
Contaminated Soils
Identifying contaminated land, site evaluation, Source-pathway-receptor, identifying risks, hazards and exposure. Contaminated land regime in the UK- Legal Framework
Dr Chris Smillie, SRUC
Week 8
Remediation of Contaminated Soils
Design and implementation of remediation, Overview of remediation techniques and technologies: Biological, physical and chemical (CS)
Dr Chris Smillie, SRUC
Week 9
Assessed presentation session
List of titles to be agreed beforehand this will be discussed in Week 1
Week 10
Module revision and examination preparation
Class revision session and reviewing past exam papers.
Dr Sarah Buckingham, SRUC
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2020/21, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  40
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 33, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 163 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 50 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Course assessment is based on both course work and examination. The assessed course work is an essay and a presentation given to be submitted toward the end of the course, a short presentation summarising the essay submitted and finally an examination at the end of the semester.
Written Report
Oral Presentation
Written Report (40%):
Deadline Midday Monday 23rd November 2020 via TurnItIn (no hardcopies required)
The written report will be based on a topic of your choice, but must be of relevance to the course themes and agreed in discussion with the teaching staff. Examples of potential subject areas are provided and discussed in week 1.
The written report should be written in a scientific style, highlighting the issue, emphasising the importance of the issue for soil use/management and drawing on possible correction/management options for control/correction. The essay should be around 3000 words in length and be fully referenced with trusted sources. If the subject area is associated with alternative views then ensure both sides are explored in the essay with supporting literature.
Oral presentation (10%):
*For 2020-21 oral presentations will be conducted via online video submission*
Deadline Midday 16th November 2020 via TurnItIn (no hardcopies required)
Presentations should be based on your written report topic and be no longer than 10minutes. All presentations must be uploaded to Learn via TurnItIn by midday 16th November. Students will then be given the opportunity to view and listen to the presentations within the Week 9 tutorial slot 14.00-17.00.
The presentations comprise of a 10 minute talk on your chosen subject area. You are encouraged to use PowerPoint to aid your presentation. These might cover, but should not be limited to, the following topics; title, introduction, issue, solutions, outcomes and future scenarios. Presentations assessment is based criteria covering content (structure, clarity in the message and knowledge conveyed), visual (clarity of information provided) and delivery (engagement and clarity).
Examination (50%):
A closed book examination will take place at the end of the first semester. Details to be announced once confirmed by the University. Past papers will be made available during the course and a session on approaches to answering them will be included. Date to be confirmed
*For 2020-21 examination will comprise a 24 hour open-book exam (as a direct replacement for 2/3 hour in-person exams* More details will be provided in Week 1 and Week 10 revision session.
Feedback Not entered
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S1 (December)2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Have an understanding of soil formation, classification and global distribution.
  2. Determine interactions between soil and the environment
  3. Identify key factors driving reduction in soil quality and increased erosion potential.
  4. Evaluate land management practise to mitigate negative impacts on soil.
Reading List
As the course covers many different topics, further online reading guidance specific to each topic is provided within lecture material weekly.
However if you are new to soil science and are keen to conduct some preliminary background reading, the following textbooks provide valuable background material for the course.
*We do not expect you to purchase these books to undertake the course and appreciate that access to libraries may be limited during 2020-21*
┐ Barrow, C.J. (1991). Land Degradation. Cambridge University Press.
┐ Brady N.C. and Weil R.R. (2007). The nature and properties of soils (14th Edition).
┐ Harris, J.A., Birch, P. & Palmer, J. (1996). Land Restoration and Reclamation - Principles and Practice. Longman, London.
┐ Hudson, N. W. (1995). Soil Conservation (3rd Edition) Batsford, London.
┐ Marshall J.T., Homes C.T., and Rose C.W. (1996). Soil Physics.
┐ Morgan, R. P. C. (2005). Soil Erosion and Conservation (3rd ed) Blackwell, Oxford.
┐ Sparks, D.L. (2002). Environmental Soil Chemistry. (2nd Edition) Academic Press.
┐ Tan, K. H. (2000). Environmental Soil Science (2nd Edition). M. Dekker, New York.
┐ Wild, A. (2003). Soils, Land and Food: Managing the Land during the Twenty-First Century.
┐ Code of Good Practice, giving practical advice to farmers etc on minimising pollution. Scottish Executive 2005
┐ Papadopolous, A et al., (2014) Does organic management lead to enhanced soil physical quality? Geoderma 213: 435-443
┐ Dobbie, K.E, Bruneau, P.M.C and Towers, W (Eds) 2011. The State of Scottish Soils. Natural Scotland,
┐ Blum, W.E.H (2005) Functions of soil for society and the environment. Reviews in Environmental Science and Bio/Technology 4:75┐79
┐ Smith, P et al., (2010) Competition for land. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 365: 2941-2957
Online resources relating to soil threats:
┐ FAO Soils Portal
┐ FAO Status of the World┐s Resources:
┐ Global Soil Partnership ┐ Global Soil Threats by region:
┐ Valuing your soils:
┐ Valuing your Soils Brochure: Practical Guidance for Scottish Farmers:
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills You will have the opportunity to develop and understanding of the pressures and issues relating to soil preservation, management and rehabilitation and to develop potential land management strategies to alleviate or remediate these issues.
KeywordsSoil,protection,management,soil sustainability,envrironmental management
Course organiserDr Sarah Buckingham
Course secretaryMrs Elspeth Martin
Tel: 0131 535 4198
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