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 addresses the current challenges and trends in conservation and ecosystem management from ecological and social perspectives by combining classical lectures, group discussions of scientific papers, writing of an essay and performing an exercise to communicate conservation science to the broad public. 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).
  • Communicate current ideas on conservation to a broad public (niv. 6)

The principal themes of the course

Conservation attitudes, targets and strategies have changed notoriously in the last decades, shifting from an understanding of nature embodied by landscapes with low human influence towards a pragmatic acceptance of disturbance and a utilitarian value of nature as provider of services; from targeting particular populations or ecological communities to complex interlinked ecosystems, from 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 these socio-ecological systems. Scientists are also increasingly aware of the need of communicating effectively with broad audiences and starting to work more closely with artists on joint projects. In this course, these trends will be presented and discussed.

The trends can be grouped in six main themes:

- Resilience of Socio-Ecological Systems
- Policy versus Practice
- Protect versus Manage
- Ecosystem Approach
- Succes Stories
- Manifesting Science

Download the 2018 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)
  • Group communication assignment (Assignment 3)


Students will be evaluated through 4 assignments:

  • Assignment 1: Reading critically (10 %)
  • Assignment 2: Individual essay (45 %)
  • Assignment 3: Communicating effectively (15 %)
  • Assignment 4: Final exam (30 %)

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

Cluster 1: Resilience of Social-Ecological Systems
Cluster 2: Governance & Policy for Conservation
Cluster 3: Protection versus Management
Cluster 4: Ecosystem Approach
Cluster 5: Succes Stories in Conservation
Cluster 6: Communicating Conservation Science

  • Assignment 2: Individual Essay
  • Assignment 3: Communicating Conservation Science (15 %)


All lectures are available on MyPortal, course REG31306

Core team

Milena Holmgren
Verina Ingram
Philippine Vergeer
Pieter Zuidema

Invited lecturers

Federico Alice-Guier
Rob Buiter
Marjolijn Christianen
Rik Leemans
Juul Limpens
John Liu
Marielos Peña-Claros
Joop Schaminee
Marten Scheffer
Mathijs Schouten
Simon Vink
Michiel van den Bergh
Wietse van der Werf
Joeri Zwerts