701-1631-00L  Foundations of Ecosystem Management

SemesterAutumn Semester 2023
LecturersJ. Ghazoul, A. Giger Dray
Periodicityyearly recurring course
Language of instructionEnglish


701-1631-00 GFoundations of Ecosystem Management3 hrs
Thu10:15-13:00CHN G 46 »
10:15-13:00HG E 41 »
J. Ghazoul, A. Giger Dray

Catalogue data

AbstractThis course introduces the broad variety of conflicts that arise in projects focusing on sustainable management of natural resources. It explores case studies of ecosystem management approaches and considers their practicability, their achievements and possible barriers to their uptake.
ObjectiveStudents should be able to
a) propose appropriate and realistic solutions to ecosystem management problems that integrate ecological, economic and social dimensions across relevant temporal and spatial scales.
b) identify important stakeholders, their needs and interests, and the main conflicts that exist among them in the context of land and resource management.
ContentTraditional management systems focus on extraction of natural resources, and their manipulation and governance. However, traditional management has frequently resulted in catastrophic failures such as, for example, the collapse of fish stocks and biodiversity loss. These failures have stimulated the development of alternative ‘ecosystem management’ approaches that emphasise the functionality of human-dominated systems. Inherent to such approaches are system-wide perspectives and a focus on ecological processes and services, multiple spatial and temporal scales, as well as the need to incorporate diverse stakeholder interests in decision making. Thus, ecosystem management is the science and practice of managing natural resources, biodiversity and ecological processes, to meet multiple demands of society. It can be local, regional or global in scope, and addresses critical issues in developed and developing countries relating to economic and environmental security and sustainability.

This course provides an introduction to ecosystem management, and in particular the importance of integrating ecology into management systems to meet multiple societal demands. The course explores the extent to which human-managed terrestrial systems depend on underlying ecological processes, and the consequences of degradation of these processes for human welfare and environmental well-being. Building upon a theoretical foundation, the course will tackle issues in resource ecology and management, notably forests, agriculture and wild resources within the broader context of sustainability, biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation or economic development. Case studies from tropical and temperate regions will be used to explore these issues. Dealing with ecological and economic uncertainty, and how this affects decision making, will be discussed. Strategies for conservation and management of terrestrial ecosystems will give consideration to landscape ecology, protected area systems, and community management, paying particular attention to alternative livelihood options and marketing strategies of common pool resources.
Lecture notesNo Script
LiteratureChichilnisky, G. and Heal, G. (1998) Economic returns from the biosphere. Nature, 391: 629-630.
Daily, G.C. (1997) Nature’s Services: Societal dependence on natural ecosystems. Island Press. Washington DC.
Hindmarch, C. and Pienkowski, M. (2000) Land Management: The Hidden Costs. Blackwell Science.
Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis. Island Press, Washington DC.
Milner-Gulland, E.J. and Mace, R. (1998) Conservation of Biological Resources. Blackwell Science.
Gunderson, L.H. and Holling, C.S. (2002) Panarchy: understanding transformations in human and natural systems. Island Press.
Subject-specific CompetenciesConcepts and Theoriesassessed
Method-specific CompetenciesDecision-makingassessed
Project Managementassessed
Social CompetenciesCommunicationfostered
Cooperation and Teamworkassessed
Customer Orientationfostered
Leadership and Responsibilityfostered
Self-presentation and Social Influence assessed
Sensitivity to Diversityfostered
Personal CompetenciesAdaptability and Flexibilityfostered
Creative Thinkingassessed
Critical Thinkingassessed
Integrity and Work Ethicsfostered
Self-awareness and Self-reflection assessed
Self-direction and Self-management assessed

Performance assessment

Performance assessment information (valid until the course unit is held again)
Performance assessment as a semester course
ECTS credits5 credits
ExaminersJ. Ghazoul, A. Giger Dray
Typegraded semester performance
Language of examinationEnglish
RepetitionRepetition possible without re-enrolling for the course unit.
Additional information on mode of examinationThere are three mandatory written assignments comprising a short individual essay (10%), and two groups reports evaluating and discussing the case study work (30%), and describing the structure of the participatory model that will be developed (20%).
There will also be an oral examination at the end of the semester, comprising 40% of the final grade, that will cover key concepts, challenges, and approaches in ecosystem management.

Learning materials

Main linkFoundations of ecosystem management
Only public learning materials are listed.


No information on groups available.


Places35 at the most
PriorityRegistration for the course unit is until 25.09.2023 only possible for the primary target group
Primary target groupMAS ETH in Spatial Planning (115000)
MAS ETH in Sustainable Water Resources (118000)
Environmental Sciences MSc (736000)
Science, Technology and Policy MSc (860000)
Waiting listuntil 29.09.2023

Offered in

Doctorate Environmental SciencesForest and Landscape ManagementWInformation
MAS in Sustainable Water ResourcesElective CoursesWInformation
Spatial Development and Infrastructure Systems MasterMajor in Spatial and Landscape DevelopmentWInformation
Science, Technology, and Policy MasterElectivesWInformation
Environmental Sciences MasterApplicationsWInformation
Environmental Sciences MasterEcosystem ManagementWInformation