PLNT2201 Plants in Action

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 2UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 2 core unit in the Botany major sequence
  • Level 2 complementary unit in the Agricultural Science major sequence
  • The area of knowledge for this unit is Life and Health Sciences
  • Category B broadening unit for students
  • Level 2 elective
Plants have literally shaped the Earth and its environment, priming the great oxygenation event several billion years ago which enabled the evolution of all aerobic life. We are sustained by the bountiful plant life around us, but it is their capacity to adapt and acclimate to wide conditions that makes studying plants so interesting. This plasticity driven by the plant genome underpins native ecosystems, enables restoration of toxic or nutrient-poor land, as well as use of plants in managed systems including agriculture. Plants also have a wide range of relationships with other organisms, from food or host to symbiont or parasite. Grain/seed production sustains the energy requirements of the growing human population, as well as being one of the major international commodities traded around the world. Plant metabolic pathways facilitate acclimation to a changing environment and produce compounds (e.g. vitamins) essential for human and animal health. This unit takes students through the parts (organs, tissues and cells) that make up plants, and considers the relationships and influences of plants on the environment and other organisms. Students will gain practical skills in evaluating plant function in the context of many disciplines. Topics include the structure–physiology relationships at the cell, tissue, organ, plant and community levels; plant growth and development; transfer processes in the soil–plant–atmosphere continuum; energy capture and metabolism; water relations; nutrient acquisition; and acclimations to environment.
Students are able to (1) know the structure of plants and how each part functions and contributes to the whole; (2) have skills in plant anatomy and measure aspects of plant physiology including net photosynthesis, chlorophyll content, water relations, water transport, ion transport, radiation interception, and plant growth and development; and (3) have skills in quantitative analyses, critical thinking to evaluate data sets and communicate findings, and several foundation theories in plant physiology.
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) continuous assessment corresponding to the practical sessions (45 per cent) and (2) end-of-semester two-hour examination (55 per cent). Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit except in the case of a bachelor's pass degree student who has obtained a mark of 45 to 49 overall and is currently enrolled in this unit, and it is the only remaining unit that the student must pass in order to complete their course.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Associate Professor Patrick Finnegan, Dr Kosala Ranathunge
Unit rules
BIOL1130 Frontiers in Biology or BIOL1131 Plant and Animal Biology or SCIE1106 Molecular Biology of the Cell
Contact hours
lectures: 2 hours per week; practical work: 6 x 3-hour sessions. Lectures are delivered as a combination of online-only, live (and recorded) and live facilitation.

Atwell, B. J. et al. Plants in Action: Adaptation in Nature, Performance in Cultivation: MacMillan Education 1999

Lambers, H. et al. Plant Physiological Ecology: Springer Verlag 2008

Taiz, L. and Zeiger, E. Plant Physiology: Sinauer Associates Inc. 2002


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  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus. Copies of textbooks and other readings will be made available for students to access from the Library, online wherever possible as well as in print.