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Ecosystem Services




Admissions requirements

Environmental Science

In addition, a basic understanding of earth processes, as introduced in parts of Earth System Sciences is desirable.


Environmental problems are complex and occur at the interface of biodiversity/ecosystem functioning and societal demands. Ecosystem services comprise a concept that allows analysing, quantifying and optimizing this interface by expressing the multitude of ways through which ecosystems provide benefits to humankind. This course will provide students with a theoretical and applied approach to ecosystem services.

The first part of the course will focus on basic principles of ecosystem services and their classification. The pros and cons of using ecosystem services as a concept will be debated. Next, their relation with and dependence on ecosystem functioning and biodiversity will be discussed. This part will include key concepts needed to understand and quantify ecosystem functioning, the role of organisms in general and biodiversity in particular therein as well as the impacts of trade-offs and feedbacks on ecosystem processes. The impacts of ecosystem functioning, including its trade-offs and feedbacks on ecosystem services is discussed.

The second part of the course will focus on the societal dimension of ecosystem services. Methods, indicators and instruments available to assess the interactions with human society are discussed. The different ways of calculating the benefits of provided ecosystem services are discussed and include the differences between benefits and values. Methods for mapping ecosystem services and the impacts of flows of ecosystem services will be quantified. Tools to manage and optimize ecosystem services as dependent on local societal demands are discussed and examples of successful and failed applications of the ecosystem services concepts for ecosystem management are evaluated.

As part of the course, students will conduct a group research project, within which the ecosystem services of a particular case study will be analysed. Each group will work with a different ecosystem. Within the project, special attention is paid to the interests and perceptions of the involved stakeholders and the interactions among them. Students will discuss ecosystem services for their case study from different perspectives, analyse the potential impacts thereof on ecosystem management and discuss how different ecosystem types lead to a different balance in services provision.

Course objectives

Upon completion of the course, students are expected to be able to:

  • define and discuss important principles, characteristics and instruments related to the provision of ecosystem services;

  • characterize the relationships between ecosystem functioning, ecosystem services and societal demands;

  • evaluate the impacts of trade-offs, feedbacks, spatiotemporal arrangements and stakeholders’ preferences for perceived ecosystem services;

  • be able to work with ecosystem services concepts within a multidisciplinary setting;

  • critically evaluate approaches to manage ecosystems and to optimise resources availability in light of ecosystem services concepts;

  • critically discuss, debate in a constructive way, and report on issues involved in the concept of and provision of ecosystem services from multiple points of view.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The main mode of instruction will centre around seminar-style/dynamic lectures and include short videos and examples for real life situations that will be discussed during the lectures. In addition, debates are organised and involves questions and discussions, aiming at a full engagement of all students. This requires student to be prepared prior to the instruction, so that they can constructively participate in structured and ad-hoc discussions. Preparations for the lectures is done on an individual basis.
In addition, students are required to complete a group assignment. To facilitate completion of these assignments, there will be some time set aside before or after the lectures to discuss progress on the group assignment (the remainder of the work is conducted outside class hours and will constitute about half of the time investment for the course).
Attendance is compulsory for students.


Assessment will occur through one exam, and a group assignment. The performance within the group assignment is assessed at two moments (once through a report and once through a poster presentation). In addition, participation in class will determine part of the final grade.

  • class participation: 10%

  • Mid-term report of the Group Assignment: 20%

  • Elevator pitch and poster presentation of the Group Assignment: 30%

  • Final Exam: 40%

Exam: The exam will consist of a combination of short-answer and essay questions.

Group assignment: By the end of week 4, each group has to deliver a written assignment on the group progress up to and including week 4. The final results of the group assignment are presented in a plenary session during each groups presents their work through a 3-minutes elevator pitch by one of the members of the group and supported by a poster. The assignment will be evaluated as a group effort.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

On-line reading materials will be distributed via LUC Blackboard


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Prof.Dr. Peter M. van Bodegom,
Dr. Alexander van Oudenhoven,