Student information

Trends in Forest and Nature Conservation, REG-31306

TRENDS in Forest and Nature Conservation is developed by the four chair-groups (REG, PEN, FNP and FEM) teaching the Master Forest and Nature Conservation (MFN) programme and some external invited speakers.

The course reflects on five major trends in conservation science from ecological and social perspectives. The course uses a workshop format with a diverse selection of speakers to present current approaches in conservation and management within each of the five major trends in conservation science. The course combines classical lectures, group discussions of scientific papers and individual writing assignments. During the course students practice how to critically evaluate a scientific paper and how to write an essay that discusses the scientific evidence behind a chosen trend in conservation and management.

The course is directed to first year students from the Master in Forest and Nature Conservation (MFN) programme and complemented with students from other master programs.

For whom?

For all MSc students Forest and Nature Conservation (MFN)

By whom?

Presented by the four main chair groups of the study:

  • REG Resource Ecology Group
  • FEM Forest Ecology and Forest Management
  • FNP  Forest and Nature Conservation Policy
  • PEN Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation

Download the Course Guide

Learning objectives

After the course, the student is expected to be able to:

  • Analyse emerging trends in conservation science using ecological and social sciences (niv. 4).
  • Evaluate the scientific evidence underlying a conservation approach (niv. 5).
  • Assess scientific papers critically (niv. 5)
  • Write a scientific essay that analyses an emergent trend in conservation (niv. 6).

The principal themes of the course

Conservation attitudes, targets and strategies have changed dramatically in the last four decades, shifting:

  1. From understanding ecological systems as having easily predictable responses to environmental change to an increasing awareness of nonlinear dynamics and sometimes unpredictable outcomes;
  2. From an understanding of nature embodied by landscapes with low human influence towards a pragmatic acceptance of disturbance and an utilitarian value of nature as provider of services;
  3. From using single disciplinary approaches to a growing awareness that guidelines for conservation and management need to be evidence-based and that inter-disciplinarity is key to understand and provide evidence on how socio-ecological systems function;
  4. From targeting particular populations or ecological communities to addressing conservation and management of complex interlinked socio-ecological ecosystems;
  5. From remaining in academic circles towards an increasing engagement and communication with broad social audiences.

In this course, we discuss these five trends in nature conservation within the following five themes:

- Resilience of Socio-Ecological Systems
- Protect-Manage-Fight
- Conservation Science vs. Practica
- Ecosystem Approach and Teleconnections
- Communicating for Conservation Success

Download the 2019 programme

Working forms

The course uses a combination of working forms:

  • Lectures
  • Group discussions: paper discussions in small groups (Assignment 1)
  • Individual essay writing (Assignment 2)


Students will be evaluated through 4 assignments:

  • Assignment 1: Reading critically (15 %)
  • Assignment 2: Individual essay (45 %)
  • Assignment 3: Final exam (40 %)

The grades for each assignment will remain valid for 1 academic year. Minimum grade of each assignment should be  ≥ 5.5 to complete the course successfully.


  • Assignment 1: Reading Critically

The papers listed below are used for the group discussions and Assignment 1. They are available through our university digital library.

Cluster 0: Introduction to Trends in Conservation Science

Theme 1: Resilience of Social-Ecological Systems
Theme 2: Protect-Manage-Fight
Theme 3: Conservation Science vs. Practice
Theme 4: Ecosystem Approach and Teleconnections
Theme 5: Communicating for Conservation Success

IPBES Summary Report for Policy Makers

  • Assignment 2: Individual Essay


All lectures are available on MyPortal, course REG31306

Core team

Milena Holmgren
Oliver Human
Philippine Vergeer
Pieter Zuidema

Invited lecturers

Meindert Brouwer
Rob Buiter
David Kleijn
Jasper Eikelboom
Ignas Heitkonig
Milena Holmgren
Verina Ingram
Rik Leemans
Juul Limpens
Erik Meesters
Catherina de Pater
Marielos Peña-Claros
Andries Richter
Ute Sass-Klaassen
Joop Schaminee
Marten Scheffer
Mathijs Schouten
Peter van der Sleen
Esther Turnhout
Ingrid Visseren
Philippine Vergeer
Wietse van der Werf
Pieter Zuidema
Joeri Zwerts