Plant Ecology BSC305

Study Plant Ecology

  • A foundation course for further learning or working in gardening, landscape design, permaculture, environmental management, biological sciences, agriculture, etc
  • Unrestricted access for support from a team of expert and highly qualified tutors across both Australia and the UK.
  • Start any time, study from anywhere, work at your own pace.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introductory Ecology
  2. Plant Communities
  3. Plants and their Environment
  4. Plants, Soils & Climate
  5. Plant Adaptations to Extreme Environments
  6. Manipulating Plant Environments
  7. Environmental Conservation
  8. Environmental Organisations, Assessment and Funding

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Define the term ecosystem
  • Explain the importance of plants as energy producers within ecosystems
  • Explain basic ecological principles
  • Define the terms open and closed plant communities, semi-natural vegetation, dominant species, climax association.
  • Describe the effects of plant association and competition on the succession of plants
  • Describe how plant communities respond to environmental stresses.
  • Explain how the development, structure and function of an organism depends on the interaction of that organism with its environment
  • Describe the effects of a range of abiotic environmental factors on plant growth and development
  • Explain the importance of monitoring abiotic environmental factors
  • Describe plant modifications to withstand extreme environmental conditions
  • Describe the weather and climate in a particular region.
  • Relate plant distribution, growth and natural selection to soil, geography, weather and climate.
  • State how soil, geography, weather and climate affect the horticulturist’s selection of plants for any specific growing location.
  • Evaluate the use of meteorological records in relation to plant growth and development
  • Define the terms xerophyte, hydrophyte and halophyte
  • Describe the structure and function of xerophytes, hydrophytes and halophytes
  • Describe how xerophytes, hydrophytes and halophytes can be utilised in garden or landscape situations
  • Describe the significance of xeromorphy in temperate zone plants and its importance in the garden or landscape situation.
  • Evaluate the methods by which environmental conditions can be manipulated to improve the growth and development of plants
  • State the factors affecting the choice of plants for garden or landscape sites with extreme conditions
  • Assess the value of using protective structures to grow plant
  • Describe the sources and nature of pollutants and possible effects on plants
  • Describe how the environment may be affected by a range of horticultural practices
  • Explain how planning, environmental assessment and impact analysis may contribute to the conservation process
  • State the major sources of grant aide available to support environmental conservation on horticultural sites
  • Review the role of national and international organisations in the conservation of plants and


Learn How Natural Revegetation Relies On Succession

Plant communities change over time in response to changes in the environment. The process of changes is called succession. Plant community succession leads through a sequence of different community types to a stable plant community suitable for the environment. The stable part of the succession is called a climax community. 

An Example of a Climax Community - a Rainforest

Succession that started on a place where plant community was completely destroyed as a result of fire, volcanic activity etc. is called primary succession.  If environmental impact didn’t kill the community completely (i.e. land clearing, climate changes, etc.) and some elements of the old community are participating in the succession, this process is called secondary succession. Successions caused by internal ecosystem factors like overgrazing etc. are called autogenic successions. Allogenic successions are caused by external factors (flood, fire, land clearing etc.).

After a big disturbance a ruderal community is formed. The plants in the community are pioneers that can tolerate harsh environmental conditions and can propagate and grow fast, but they are not very competitive. After a sequence of intermediate communities, a climax community typical for the conditions is formed. A climax community can consist of competitors (in good environmental conditions) or stress tolerators. 

Community Stability

Community stability is related to the community’s ability to resist change and its ability to bounce back after change such as drought or a storm has occurred. Many plant ecologists have recognised that plant communities in which the diversity of plants is rich have greater stability than less diverse communities.  These climax communities include rainforests and coral reefs. 

A community is believed to be stable when no large changes in the population size and number of species occur over a given period of time.  These communities have reached a state of equilibrium. At this point the web of interactions within the community is so elaborate that there is no room for additional species.  Competition is fierce in these communities at times when change does occur. An event such as a lightning strike in a rainforest will trigger a race between competing species to fill the new light gap.

The relationship between diversity and stability reinforces the need to maintain species-rich communities.  By protecting these communities there is a higher chance of ensuring their persistence and ability to cope with environmental stress.

The Benefits of Indigenous Remnant Vegetation

  • They provide conservation benefits including preservation of wildlife habitats, preservation of genetic diversity, and protection of rare and endangered species.
  • They provide opportunities for recreation such as bush walking, bird watching and picnicking.
  • They enhance the aesthetic values of urban and agricultural areas.
  • They ameliorate environmental problems, including erosion and pollution. Pockets of remnant vegetation stabilise soils prone to erosion, provide shade and shelter from wind, intercept rainfall and reduce run-off and water turbidity, and filter air pollution. 
  • Pocket of remnant vegetation often improve property values.

The Benefits of Indigenous Plants

When selecting plants for use in a nature park, you should consider using plants that are indigenous to the area. They are extremely important to the functioning of the ecosystem:

  • They create or enhance wildlife habitats.
  • They preserve genetic diversity.
  • They reflect the local identity of an area.
  • They minimise the risk of weed invasion.
  • They require less maintenance than introduced species. They are adapted to the site conditions so once established will require less watering, pruning, fertilising and re-planting than many introduced species.


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Fee Information (S3)
Prices in Australian Dollars

PlanAust. PriceOverseas Price
A 1 x $834.96  1 x $759.05
B 2 x $451.44  2 x $410.40

Note: Australian prices include GST. 

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