LPLK10382U  Advanced Plant Ecophysiology

Volume 2013/2014
MSc Programme in Agriculture
What is Plant Ecophysiology?

Plant ecophysiology is the study of the physiological mechanisms that underlie where and how plants grow. Plant ecophysiologists study how plants function in diverse environments and their physiological responses to environmental and climate change. The processes occurring in plants during the immediate stress response, acclimation and adaptation to a stress are investigated.

All higher plants require essentially the same resources - light as energy source, water and nutrients - and each species must capture and use these resources for growth and reproduction. For native plants in environments where critical resources are not available in optimal supply at all times when needed, plants face selective pressure for growth performance without excessive use of resources. 
Plant ecophysiologists are concerned with understanding how species that grow in challenging environments are able to do so.

What topics will be covered in Advanced Plant Ecophysiology?

The course will give students an understanding of both molecular aspects of plant processes and the functioning of the intact plant in its environmental context. We will examine the mechanisms used which allow some plants to grow naturally in challenging environments encountered all over the world.

The course will focus on the following areas: 

How plant growth is affected by nutrient availability and which mechanisms are used in low-nutrient environments

How plants grow in acidic, calcareous, saline or heavy-metal polluted soils 

How photosynthesis is affected by availability of light, water, nutrients and atmospheric CO2 and the consequences for plant growth

How respiration in roots is affected by flooding, salinity and water stress and the consequences for plant growth and ion uptake 

How water movement within plants (in roots, stems and leaves) is affected by drought 

How plants are affected by excess irradiance and extreme temperatures 

How symbiotic associations affect how plants acquire nutrients and water

Each topic will be discussed with a view to ecological observations as well as with future plant breeding/biotechnology approaches in mind.
Learning Outcome
After completion of the course students will have gained:

• understanding of the impact of the environment on plant functioning at various levels of integration from the molecular, biochemical and physiological level to the whole plant level.
• understanding of the physiology of plants that have adapted to adverse environments

• To assess the impact of changes in the environment on plant functioning and to use the concept of biological stress to understand mechanisms involved in plant acclimation to adverse climatic conditions.
• To asses the impact of soil management on plant production. 

• To explain how variations in natural growth factors and human management factors affect the growth and productivity of different plant species used in horticulture, agriculture and forestry. 

• Analyse and react on problems related to plant growth and biodiversity in terrestrial ecosystems caused by changes in climate, soil conditioning and exposure to anthropogenic pollutants.
• Suggest and evaluate strategies for improvement of plant tolerance towards adverse environmental and climatic conditions by plant breeding and biotechnology.
Lambers, Chapin and Pons, 2008, Plant Physiological Ecology, 
2nd edition, Springer.

Out of stock from publisher, but pdf files of all chapters can be downloaded from via the university library.
Prior knowledge of plant physiology, for example completion of Advanced Plant Biology or Planters Økofysiologi.
The course consists of lectures, group discussions, theoretical exercises solved individually and in groups for each topic, as well as 2 excursions.
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination, 4 x one hour during course under invigilation
Description of Examination:
The examination is based on 4 one-hour written tests consisting of multiple choice questions and questions demanding short or longer written answers. Each of the 4 examinations will be marked and contribute equally (1/4 each) to the final grade given for the course.
Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners
Oral reexamination
Criteria for exam assesment
In accordance with the learning outcomes
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 34
  • Exam
  • 4
  • Excursions
  • 8
  • Theory exercises
  • 30
  • Preparation
  • 130
  • Total
  • 206