The Earth system


Earth and Environmental Sciences (2nd level)

Biodiversity, ecology and evolution (2nd Cycle)
Karstology (2nd Cycle)
Paleobiology and sedimentary geology (2nd Cycle)

Course code: MT002
Year of study: 1st year

Course principal:
Prof. Aleksander Horvat, Ph. D.


Workload: lectures 45 hours, seminar 30 hours, tutorial 30 hours, individual work 120 hours.
Course type: mandatory
Languages: Slovene, English
Learning and teaching methods: lectures, seminar, tutorial, individual work


Course syllabus (download)


First-cycle Bologna degree or a university degree in the natural sciences.


Content (Syllabus outline):

  • Earth as a system: system concepts in geosciences
  • Geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere
  • Global exchange of energy
  • Circulation of atmosphere, oceans and the solid Earth
  • Origin of Earth and of Life
  • Rock-forming minerals and rocks
  • Plate tectonics, climate and life
  • Geologic time scale and concepts of stratigraphy
  • Correlation and dating the rock record
  • History of life in Phanerozoic
  • Mass extinctions: causes and consequences
  • Major global cycles and changes: carbon cycle, silicon cycle, nitrogen cycle, recycling of elements
  • Major events in Earth history
  • Contribution of sedimentology and palaeontology to Earth system science
  • Climate changes
  • Anthropocene: human impact on Earth system



  • Cockell, C. 2008: An introduction to Earth-Life System. Cambridge Uni. Press, 61-229..
  • Cowen, R. 2013: History of Life. 5th Edition. Blackwell Science, Oxford, 27-46, 63-88, 107363, 389-448.
  • Kump, L. R., Kasting, J. F. & Crane, R. G. 2009: The Earth System, 3rd Edition. Prentice Hall, 434 pp.
  • Prothero, D. R. & Dott, R. H. 2004: Evolution of the Earth. McGraw Hill Comp., 67-98, 151-498.
  • Stanley, S. M. 2005: Earth system history. W. H. Freemann & Co., 79-538.


Objectives and competences:

The course is aimed to providing a fundamental understanding of complexity of the Earth system to students with only rudimentary knowledge of geosciences. The course will tackle the subject of broad multidisciplinary area of Earth system sciences, emphasizing their relevance and relationship with palaeobiology and sedimentary geology, particulary links between present-day processes with the geological record of large-scale events in the Earth history.


Intended learning outcomes:

Knowledge and understanding:

  • Acquire a scientific understanding of the entire planet Earth system.
  • Explore the complexity and interrelation of major subsystems – spheres.
  • Learn about plate tectonics and the evolution of planet Earth.
  • Develop a basic understanding of geological time, varying time and spatial scales in geological processes and global changes.


Written or oral exam (70 %), written paper (30 %).