Human Ecology:An Introduction to Social-Ecological Systems - SE610

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Autumn 5 15 (7.5) checkmark-circle


The aim of this module is to introduce students to recent developments in natural resource management focused on the ideas of natural capital, ecosystem services and sustainable landscape management and thus a module set firmly with the socio-ecological tradition of human ecology. The module will trace the traditions of this gradual harmonisation of resource management discourse and how it plays out conceptually, empirically and at the interface of environmental science, policy and practice. The module will also set this tradition in a critical frame, drawing back to underlying assumptions about the idea of nature, and the relationship between nature, economy, human development and well-being. It will also have a practical edge by covering issues of environmental citizenship and the ethical, procedural and practical rationales that underpin different forms and levels of engagement in environmental decision making.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours



BA in Environmental Social Science
BSc in Human Ecology
BSc in Wildlife Conservation
BA in Social Anthropology

Method of assessment

50% Exam; 50% Coursework
Group Poster (10%)
Group Presentation (10%)
Essay (30%).

Indicative reading

Adams, W.M. 2014. The Value of Valuing Nature. Science. 346: 549-551.

Berkes, F., Colding, J. and Folke, C. 2003. Navigating Social Ecological Systems: Building Resilience for Complexity and Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK

Biggs, R., Westley, F. R., & Carpenter, S. R. (2010). Navigating the Back Loop : Fostering Social Innovation and Transformation in Ecosystem Management. Ecology and Society, 15(2).

Daily, G (1997) Nature's Services: Societal Dependence on Natural Ecosystems: Island Press

De Groot, R. S., Wilson, M. A., & Boumans, R. M. (2002). A Typology for the Classification, Description and Valuation of Ecosystem Functions, Goods and Services. Ecological
Economics, 41(3), 393-408.

Fisher, Brendan, R. Kerry Turner, and Paul Morling. "Defining and Classifying Ecosystem Services for Decision Making." Ecological Economics 68.3 (2009): 643-653.

Gómez-Baggethun, E., & Ruiz-Pérez, M. (2011). Economic Valuation and the Commodification of Ecosystem Services. Progress in Physical Geography, 35(5), 613-628.

MA, 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis, Washington, DC.

Mace, G.M. 2014. Whose conservation? Science. 345: 1558-1560

Ostrom, E. (2009). A General Framework for Analyzing Sustainability of Social-Ecological Systems. Science (New York, N.Y.), 325(5939), 419–22.

Scheffer, Martin, Carpenter, S., Foley, J. a, Folke, C., & Walker, B. (2001). Catastrophic Shifts in Ecosystems. Nature, 413(6856), 591–6.

Scheffer, Marten, Bascompte, J., Brock, W. a, Brovkin, V., Carpenter, S. R., Dakos, V., Held, H., et al. (2009). Early-Warning Signals for Critical Transitions. Nature, 461(7260), 53–9.

Walker, B., Gunderson, L., Kinzig, A., Folke, C., Carpenter, S., & Schultz, L. (2006). A Handful of Heuristics and Some Propositions for Understanding Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems. Ecology and Society, 11(1).

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

8.1 understand the relationship between society and nature from the starting point of Human Ecology in general and social-ecological systems research in particular;
8.2 contextualise social-ecological systems research with respect to wider developments in environmentalism, environmental policy and integrated approaches to natural resource management
8.3 critically assess current evidence of environmental change and scenarios for the future and their relationship to scientific and policy agendas for sustainability
8.4 evaluate the roles of market, states and civil society action in promoting sustainable use of environmental assets in a range of habitat and decision making contexts


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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