NIGK13008U  Ecology and Ecosystems Science in relation to Environmental Economics

Volume 2013/2014
MSc Programme in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics
Basic knowledge about systems ecology is essential for evaluations and analyses within the field of environmental and natural resource economics. Through lessons and case studies of various ecosystems (forest, agriculture, heathland, dunes etc.) you will be introduced to various aspects of ecosystem structure, functioning and processes that are of special importance to the practical application of economic theories, methods and instruments taught in subsequent economics courses in the M.Sc. in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics.

Systems ecology: the ecosystem concept, succession and disturbances, biochemical cycling of nutrients, soil processes, hydrological cycles, carbon sequestration and turnover of organic material, other greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide, biodiversity and wild life ecology.

Management and human impacts on ecosystems and their services: management and land-use change effects on ecosystem services such as nutrients and soil fertility, water quantity and quality, habitats and organisms, climate change mitigation (C sequestration). The specific management related topics are for example, pesticide and fertilizer use in agriculture (loss of nitrogen and phosphorus, impact on water quality of lakes, streams, ground water, riparian zones), bioenergy feedstock production, waste recycling (sludge, waste water, bioashes from combustion), land use and land-use change (afforestation, conversion to perennial crops in agriculture, impacts on e.g. water quality and quantity and greenhouse gas balances), general soil conservation, habitat protection, game management, grazing ecosystem restoration, and climate change adaptation.

Learning Outcome

The aim is to give the student an in-depth understanding of the ecology of various land uses, e.g. forestry, agriculture, heathland, and dune ecosystems, and the interactions among them at the landscape level. The student should understand the reasoning behind the use of various management tools in different ecosystems according to specific management goals. Temperate ecosystems will be in focus, but the principles will be general and relevant for other biomes.

After completing the course, the student will be able to:


- Describe fundamental structures, functions and processes of systems ecology, for example biogeochemistry, soil processes, hydrology, succession, biodiversity, disturbance), including interactions between ecosystems.

- Explain how ecosystem structures, functions and processes can be influenced by management and climate change.

- Explain key theories and methodologies for ecosystem management, including principles of sustainable management, restoration, and protection of environmental values.

- Describe the most common certification and labelling systems relevant to sustainable and responsible management in forestry and agriculture.


- Analyse structures, functions and processes of specific ecosystems.

- Make plans for application of methods for ecosystem management.

- Develop long-term strategies, operational targets and specific operational plans for sustainable use and protection of various ecosystems, and evaluate agreement with standards of selected certification or labelling systems.

- Assess implications of management and climate change for ecosystem structures, functioning, and processes.

- Communicate solutions to the management- and climate change-related problems in reports and oral presentations.


- Identify environmental possibilities/​limitations in relation to management of ecosystems and mitigation and adaptation to climate change, including tradeoffs between reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental services.

- Adapt principles and methods for management of ecosystems to achieve identified ecosystem services and goals.

- Evaluate methods and plans for ecosystem management, e.g. by identifying strengths and weaknesses of various solutions in relation to specific sets of environmental challenges.

- Cooperate effectively in multidisciplinary and multicultural groups within a group project.

Selected text book chapters.
A number of relevant scientific papers.
Interest in environmental and natural resource science and management and its application in environment and natural resource economics.
The teaching includes lessons and interactive class room discussions, theoretical and practical exercises, and excursions. Based on the exercises and excursions, 4 mandatory reports are written.
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 40 min
Exam registration requirements
Three of four project reports must be accepted
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment
See learning outcome
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 80
  • Theory exercises
  • 42
  • Practical exercises
  • 10
  • Colloquia
  • 40
  • Excursions
  • 50
  • Project work
  • 75
  • Preparation
  • 100
  • Guidance
  • 10
  • Exam
  • 5
  • Total
  • 412