FOR20110 Forests, Climate and Carbon

Academic Year 2020/2021

Forests play an important role in the climate regulation systems of the earth. This module will explore, in a way that is understandable for students with and without a science background, the linkages between forests, climate (change) and carbon and other green house gases. The following topics will be covered in this module: Forest types, tree species; Environmental factors determining tree growth/health; impacts of forests on climate and ecosystems; Climate predictions, expected consequences and dendro-climatology; Mitigation: carbon sequestration, biomass, renewable energy, product lifecycle, conservation of existing forests and forest expansion, land-use change and context of forestry among other land-use types e.g. agricultural systems; Adaptation: forest management, forest conversion/transformation, species selection, silvicultural systems; Carbon trading: Reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD); International cooperation (Kyoto, Copenhagen, Madrid, Cancun, Paris etc.) and current position for Ireland.
A compulsory one-day fieldtrip will be organised during the fieldwork/study period in weeks 8 and 9.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

Students will have an understanding of the linkages between forests, climate change and the carbon balance, both at Irish and international levels. The impacts of afforestation, deforestation and forest degradation on world carbon budgets will be understood, as well as the use of forests in mitigation and adaptation strategies to deal with climate change.

Indicative Module Content:

Lecture material covered broadly follows the following sequence. Year-to-year, the order or topics change and are updated to reflect interest within the student group or topical affairs of guest lectures etc.:

Lecture 1: Module introduction
Objective and structure of module. Discussion of general topic knowledge.

Lecture 2: Forest types I
What is Forestry? Irish and global. Natural and plantation.

Lecture 3: Forest types II
Species types, mixtures and management.

Lecture 4: Forest types III
Management types and effects of various disturbances.

Lecture 5: Environment & tree growth I
Soils and site factors and influence on growth / productivity. Plant response mechanisms to climate.

Lecture 6: Environment & tree growth II
Biology of tree growth and response to climatic factors.

Lecture 7: Environment & tree growth III
Forest growth and forest ecosystem carbon cycling.

Lecture 8: Environment & tree growth I
An introduction to dendroclimatology.

Lecture 9: Climate change effects I
Climate change impacts on forests and other ecosystems.

Lecture 10: Climate change effects II
Climate change mitigation (i) Sequestration, expansion/conservation, harvested wood products.

Lecture 11: Climate change effects III
Climate change mitigation (ii) Comparison with other land use types.

Lecture 12: Climate change effects IV
Climate change adaptation and connection with impacts and mitigation.

Lecture 13: Forest economics
Economics of growing forests and carbon credits. Concept of discounting.

Lecture 14: Fieldwork project preparation: Assessing forest carbon sequestration
Forest inventory methodology. Biomass sampling and scaling equations.

Lecture 19: Assessing forest carbon sequestration project
In-class marking of project - peer review session.

Lecture 20: Global climate change I
Introduction to global climate systems and global carbon cycles.

Lecture 21: Global climate change II
Climate change and global C-cycles II.

Lecture 22: Global climate change III
National and international climate-change policy and introduction to LULUCF.

Lecture 23: Discussion and Revision
Class-led revision session.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Field Trip/External Visits


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module assumes no prior knowledge of the subject area and seeks to build an appreciation of how trees grow and develop, individually and in forest ecosystems, and respond to environmental circumstances. By engaging student's appreciation of how trees and forests play a key role in the everyday environment around them, this module aims to build a fascination for how forests interact at once locally and globally, and are subject to but yet have a significant impact on planetary climate and weather systems.
The class lectures include some video material as well as group quizzes and problem-solving exercises. Visiting lectures are also provided to inject excitement and topical relevance to the course material.
The essay allows students develop their individual interests within the confines of the module scope, as well as their writing and presentation skills.
The field project is presented as a consultancy exercise and groups or students engage to assist one another to collect relevant data and information to answer the specification of the assignment. The group-based practical PC-lab sessions build student's capacity to use spreadsheet software to analyse field data and draw practical parallels with material covered in lectures. The students are afforded a chance to grade other student's field reports to give them an insight into how other individuals answered the same set of requirements. If their grading is within a certain degree of the coordinators grading of the same report they are awarded further marks.
Throughout the module the content is rooted in practical aspects of everyday life and made relevant to all students, whether Irish or from abroad. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Fieldwork: Fieldwork-based project where students gather field data from a forest and analyse within group sessions. The project is presented as a professional consultancy report. Varies over the Trimester n/a Graded Yes


Examination: Short-answer in-class Examination Week 12 No Graded Yes


Essay: Continuous Assessment. Students choose a subject of personal interest within the scope of the module and research the topic to write a short essay. Varies over the Trimester n/a Graded Yes


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Summer Yes - 1 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback on the essay grading is provided to students through Brightspace based on personalised comments and a rubric. Generalised comments are also provided in a lecture setting. The students spend time in groups while collecting and analysing field data. Part of the grading of this assessment is based on student's grading of a peer's project. This provides them with an insight into how someone else approached the same report. The feedback oon the grading is delivered via Brightspace.

Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.

Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29, 30, 31 Thurs 13:00 - 13:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 27 Thurs 13:00 - 13:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 29, 30, 31 Tues 13:00 - 13:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 27 Tues 13:00 - 13:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 28 Tues 13:00 - 13:50