Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Any Level 2 GEOG module


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The aim of this moduleis to provide an understanding of the significance of peatland lansdcapes as a resouce, their importance in regulating climate change; and discuss how they can be effectively managed.


  • Introduction – What is peat? Global significance of peatlands
  • Blanket peatlands - The terrestrial ‘sponge’? - hydrology of peatlands
  • Erosion processes
  • Slope processes and mass movements
  • Calculating change - sediment budgets and landscape change
  • The Carbon question - erosion dynamics and carbon cycling
  • The blame game - peatland drainage and burning
  • Putting things right - peatland restoration
  • Tropical peatlands under pressure
  • Arctic peatlands and changing climate

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Understand the key characteristics of peat and peatland landscapes
  • Specify the linkages between landscapes and processes
  • Appreciate the importance of peatland landscapes in controlling carbon cycling
  • Recognise current issues affecting peatlands and available management strategies.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Appreciate the range of peatland research methodologies
  • Critically assess scientific approaches in to peatland landscape studies
  • Understand how the physical characteristics and material properties of peat influence peatland process
Key Skills:
  • Order knowledge and be able to relate and synthesise key concepts
  • Read critically and make links between lecture-based knowledge and published material (advanced bibliographic skills).
  • Relate lecture-based concepts to field / management examples

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • This will be a lecture- based module with a one-day field excursion to the North Pennines to look at contemporary peat erosion and management on blanket peat. This is supplemented by a series of ‘desktop’ (classroom) demonstrations of the physical properties of peat which are incorporated into the lecture programme.
  • Lectures will enable students to gain subject-specific knowledge and understand approaches to studying peatland science.
  • Desktop demonstrations allow students to appreciate first-hand the ‘special’ properties of peat.
  • The field excursion provides practical experience of methods of peatland restoration and management.
  • Tutorials provide a discussion forum (review) at the end of the module where students can raise key topics and issues and prepare essay-plan answers. This will prepare students for the summative assessment (exam).
  • Formative assessment is provided through short tests/quizzes in lectures and the group revision tutorial at the end of the module. The tutorial reviews subject-specific knowledge and provide guidance on structuring exam question to best synthesise key concepts and published material.The summative assessment (written exam) will test subject specific knowledge and; the ability of students to critically assess scientific approaches in to peatland science, synthesise key conceptsand make links between lecture-based knowledge, published material and field / management examples.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 7 Seven one-hour lectures over one term (including a number of 10 minute desktop demonstrations) 1 hour 7
Lectures 2 Two two-hour lectures, first/last sessions (First session includes Health and Safety Field Trip briefing) 2 hours 4
Fieldwork 1 Second week, term 1 1 day 8
Tutorial 1 A one hour revision tutorial at the end of the module 1 hour 1
Preparation and Reading 80
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: 'Open Book' Written Examination Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
'Open Book' Written Examination 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

This is provided through question and answer session in lectures; the interactive classroom demonstrations; ‘spot’ tests/quizzes; discussion on the one-day field excursion and in the group review tutorial at the end of the module

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University