Site Navigation

Section Navigation

Courses : Syllabi : 507

Geography 507 Geography of Natural Vegetation


Dr. John O’Leary

Course Description

The purpose of this course is to recognize and understand the characteristics of the world’s major vegetation formations, and the various abiotic and biotic factors that control their distribution and development. The geographic scope of the course ranges in scale from local to global.

Upon completion, students taking this course should be able to:

  1. Recognize the major vegetation formations of the world
  2. Comprehend abiotic and biotic factors influencing plant species and vegetation distributions at both local and global scales
  3. Understand processes that affect vegetation development
  4. Recognize various vegetation classification systems
  5. Comprehend the role humans have played and continue to play in impacting and displacing global vegetation formations

There will be a field trip in conjunction with the department’s Geography Club, which all students are invited to attend. The daylong field trip will be offered on Saturday, November 21. Several native plant communities and related environmental factors within San Diego County will be examined.


Geography 101


Your grade in this course will be based on the following elements:

Two midterm exams (each 100 points) and a final exam (140 points) will be given on the dates shown below. These exams will be an admixture of multiple choice, short answer, and essay questions. The final exam will be partially cumulative, although most of it will cover material presented after the 2nd midterm exam. Grade cutoffs on individual exams and for the course will be determined by a grading curve. However, a grade of ‘straight A’ will be 90 points or above on a midterm exam and 90% of all possible points.

An extra credit term paper dealing with the natural vegetation of some region is optional. More detailed information on the term paper will be given during the second week of class.

Books and Materials

Required: Vegetation and Soils – A World Picture, 2nd Ed., S.R. Eyre, 1975
Various chapters of Plant Geography, 2nd Ed., M.C. Kellman, 1980 (Reserve Readings)

Weekly Topics

Week Topic
Week One Introduction; The Relations of Physical Geography, Biogeography and Ecology; Historical Roots of Plant Geography
Week Two Environmental Factors Influencing Plant Distributions: Abiotic Factors (Climatic and Edaphic)
Week Three Environmental Factors Influencing Plant Distributions: Other Abiotic Factors (Insolation, Atmospheric Gases, Temperature, Humidity, Wind, and Fire); Environmental Interdependencies; Environmental Gradients; Environmental Patterns; Biotic Factors
Week Four Ecological Properties of Species; The Structure and Function of Vegetation: Vegetational Development
Week Five The Structure and Functioning of Vegetation: Vegetational Stabilization; Spatial Organization; Classification
Week Six Midterm One
Tropical Vegetation: Rain Forests
Week Seven Tropical Vegetation: Rain Forests, Seasonal Forests, Savannas; Montane Forests
Week Eight Desert Vegetation: Tropical and Extra-Tropical
Week Nine Sclerophyllous Vegetation: Woodlands and Shrublands
Week Ten Sclerophyllous Vegetation (cont.)
Week Eleven Midterm Two
Grasslands: North American Prairies
Week Twelve Eurasian Steppes; Extra-Tropical Grasslands of the Southern Hemisphere
Week Thirteen Broad-Leaved Forests of Middle Latitudes
Week Fourteen Coniferous Forests: Boreal, Sub-Alpine, Lowland & Montane Coniferous Forests of North America
Week Fifteen Tundra and Alpine Vegetation

The statements found on this page/site are for informational purposes only. While every effort is made to ensure that this information is up to date and accurate, official information can be found in the university publications.