BIOL 501 (Earth Systems) covers a basic understanding of different Earth system components, including the geosphere, biosphere, cryosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere + the complex mechanisms and interactions among these components. It also covers nutrient cycling such as C, N, P, and S within the earth components from microbial to higher-order organisms through natural and anthropogenic systems.

Further, we focus on the impact of climate change through time (past and future) on vegetation, because plants play critical functions in the biosphere, regulating biogeochemical cycles (such as water, carbon & nitrogen) and providing the primary source of oxygen for all animal life via photosynthesis. Moreover, plants provide habitat and an energy source for other taxa and are critically important for the world economy (for example, primary production, forestry, pharmaceuticals and ecosystem services such as water yield and climate regulation are all intimately related to plants). Vegetation science and plant conservation also have critical applications in various issues such as biodiversity conservation, land degradation control, endangered species protection, sustainable forest management, fire management and weed control.

This course allows students to select their course-related favourite topic as a project, including energy resources and the environment, natural hazards, prediction and risk assessments, agriculture and global change. During the course, students will try to digest and criticize scientific papers (7 articles) and practice oral and writing presentation skills by summarising and presenting the results to the entire class + writing a mini lit review.