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Governance of Biodiversity and Ecosystems



In this course, students will acquire knowledge on the functioning of ecosystems, the interactions between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning as well as on the causes of biodiversity loss and the consequences for human wellbeing. Nature conservation is often the result of a collaboration between a wide variety of actors on local, national and international scale. From a governance perspective this requires insights in decision making, networks of actors and the integration thereof across multiple policy challenges. By coupling these issues, it will become possible to prepare policy documents to enhance biodiversity and the provisioning of ecosystem services. This integration will be tested and implemented by the students in a real-life case.

Learning goals

After completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Explain the functioning of ecosystems, biodiversity and ecosystem services as influenced by human society at different spatial scales

  • Explain how multiple stakeholders and networks of actors determine governance processes

  • Integrate formal decision making and social network theories with biodiversity challenges to derive solutions for real case studies

  • Apply and run Geographical Information Systems for spatial analyses

  • Understand the scientific, communication and policy aspects of ecosystem service indicators, biodiversity targets and related policy goals

  • Translate questions of stakeholders to policy issues and execute research to formulate integrated policy solutions to biodiversity and ecosystems

  • Communicate and work in a project group to perform transdisciplinary research

  • Communicate the results of their research to academics and decision makers, both orally and in writing

  • Reflect on your professional attitude and participation

  • Understand the scientific and policy-making aspects of biodiversity and ecosystems, and relate to societal debates on this topic

Teaching methods / mode of instruction

We offer a mix of instruction methods to optimally satisfy the course objectives:

a. Lectures (wk1- wk 6)
Through 4 double hours of lectures per week, the students will acquire the essential terminology, concepts and approaches on the governance of biodiversity and ecosystems.
During the course, the changing perceptions towards nature and the concomitant biological concepts will be discussed. In parallel, the connections to governance and nature and the increasing need for understanding governance networks (given changing perceptions) is taught.

b. Practicals and assignments (wk2-wk6)
During the course, students follow GIS practicals (week 1-4) and Governance practicals (week 5-6). Regarding the GIS practicals, two afternoons per week, the skills for spatial analysis using Geographical Information Systems and other (quantitative) methods will be taught in a series of dedicated assignments and computer practicals. The contents of the practicals are connected to the lectures of the respective week. In the Governance practicals, students will practice their stakeholder analysis skills, as well as their leadership and negotiation skills. The contents of the practicals are connected to the lectures on these topics

c. Integrated Group Assignment (wk1-wk8)
In parallel with the lectures and practicals and throughout the entire course, students will work in small groups in a transdisciplinary setting on the governance of biodiversity and ecosystems. The acquired knowledge and understanding from the lectures and practicals will be integrated by working on a real-time challenge. Representatives of relevant institutions act as ‘problem owner’, stakeholder and jury, especially during the final presentation of the group work.

Type of assessment

The course will be graded based on the following elements (including weights):

  • Written individual exam (30%). The exam will test knowledge, understanding and applications based on the information provided in the lectures and accompanying literature.

  • Individual practical assignments (30%). Both the final assignments of the GIS practical and the Governance practical are prepared individually. Each student hands in the results of the assignment by the end of the respective week.

  • Group-based poster presentation and pitch, accompanying the poster, of the Integrated Group Assignment on site in front of the jury (30%).

  • Participation (10%) is assessed through the participation and professional attitude in all elements of the course (practicals, guest lectures, group work sessions, etc.).

The final grade is the weighted average of the four components. In addition, students must have earned a minimum grade of 5.5 for all elements to receive a final grade. The group-based poster presentation and pitch will be graded jointly by the teaching staff and the representatives of the stakeholder organizations (jury).

Course materials / reading list

Literature for this course will primarily exist of scientific peer-reviewed papers from both mono-disciplinary and transdisciplinary scientific journals, supplemented with an occasional book chapter, report and policy document. All compulsory literature, as shared on Brightspace, must be studied for the written exam. However, you will still be expected to understand core concepts from the seminar literature to the extent that they are necessary for answering questions about the required literature (passive knowledge).