Sustaining our Landscapes (AGEN1002)


The quest for sustainability is integral to all land management. The earth's natural systems - especially cycles of water, carbon and nutrients - are critical to economic, social and many other aspects of the world in which we live. As a country dependent on export of commodities, Australia must contend with very significant external forces that shape how we manage land.
This unit of study provides students with critical knowledge and understanding of the economic, biophysical, and chemical principles that must be considered in assessing sustainability, and applies that knowledge to assessing how current Australian landscapes might be managed in the future. Beginning with an exploration of the meaning of sustainability and how scientific and economic methodology is applied to its study, students will progressively engage with more complex and challenging content. By the end of the unit, students will have explored major elements of sustainability and be able to apply their understanding to articulate critical questions that need to be asked when presented with simplistic approaches or ideas. A major field trip will focus on introducing students to quantitative measurement of key processes and developing a greater depth of knowledge of sustainability "in the field". A range of typical Australian landscapes will be considered, ranging from the high country and forests to intensive irrigated agriculture. The field trip and tutorial exercises are intended to help students gain skills in rigorous analysis of the relevant literature and in preparing short pieces of writing. Students direct experience of and exposure to the science and economics of ecological sustainability. Students will work in small groups during field and tutorial sessions.

Our courses that offer this unit of study

Further unit of study information


3 x lectures + 1 x tutorial per week for weeks 1-6 & 11-13, 1x tutorial per week only for weeks 7-10, 1 x compulsory 2.5 day weekend field trip between weeks 6 & 7


1 x 2hr exam (50%), 4 x tutorial exercises (24%), 1 x field trip report (26%)


A Critique for Ecology R.H. Peters, 1991, Cambridge University Press
Biogeochemistry : An Analysis of Global Change W.H. Schlesinger 1997, Academic Press

Faculty/department permission required?


Unit of study rules

Prerequisites and assumed knowledge

School Year 12 level knowledge of mathematics, some biology and chemistry.

Study this unit outside a degree

Non-award/non-degree study

If you wish to undertake one or more units of study (subjects) for your own interest but not towards a degree, you may enrol in single units as a non-award student.

Cross-institutional study

If you are from another Australian tertiary institution you may be permitted to underake cross-institutional study in one or more units of study at the University of Sydney.