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Governance of Biodiversity and Ecosystems


Admission requirements


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 case involving the science-policy interface of biodiversity and ecosystems.

Course objectives

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 institutions and other system conditions shape actor networks and governance outcomes for biodiversity and ecosystems

  • Integrate theories on collaborative and adaptive governance to explore biodiversity challenges in international case studies.

  • Apply and run Geographical Information Systems for spatial analyses

  • Analyse strategic behaviour within actor networks using game theory models

  • 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 your research to academics and decision makers, both orally and in writing

  • Reflect on your professional attitude and participation


You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

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

Lectures (wk1- wk6)
Through two intensive seminar-style lectures per week, the students will acquire the essential terminology, concepts and approaches on the governance of biodiversity and ecosystems. The lectures will be based on literature and practical examples. Each lecture will have compulsory literature assigned, that will be assessed during the written examination.
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.

Practicals and assignments (wk1-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, whenever possible, connected to the lectures of the respective week. In the Governance practicals, students will build on their stakeholder analysis skills, by exploring stakeholder’s values and collaboration potential through game theory methods and a role-playing game . The contents of the practicals are, whenever possible, connected to the lectures on these topics.

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.

Assessment method

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, and both count for half of the practical assignment grade. Each student hands in the results of the assignment by the end of the respective week. The overall grade for the practicals is based on grades for both practicals. It must be a 5,5 or higher, which means that a grade for one practical can compensate for the other.

  • Group-based poster presentation and pitch, accompanying the poster, of the Integrated Group Assignment on site in front of an expert panel. Followed by a UN-style negotiation (30%).

  • Participation (10%) is assessed through the successful completion of quizzes and assignments, as well as 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.

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).


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.