Applied Issues in Wildlife Conservation - (15 credits)

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA), a global audit of the World’s ecosystems, identified that ecosystems have declined more rapidly and extensively over the past 50 years than during any other comparable time in human history. Agents for the decline have been identified as ‘direct drivers’ (such as pollution, climate change and habitat loss), which themselves are underpinned by ‘indirect drivers’ (e.g. demography, and socio-economic, political and cultural factors). Unsurprisingly, there are consequences for wildlife; it is estimated that the current rate of extinction of species surpasses that of historic background levels by perhaps as much as three orders-of-magnitude – and in the future this is likely to increase in both scope and scale. Indeed the extent of human influence on the planet is such that it has been advocated that we have entered a new epoch – the’ Anthropocene’ – and are on the verge of the sixth mass extinction event. In addition, such changes can influence ecosystem function, with consequential impacts on ecosystem services and, ultimately, human welfare. This module explores approaches for the conservation of wildlife in an era of marked environmental change. Underpinning philosophy of conservation (i.e. compositional or functional focus) is considered. Whilst the need for ex situ conservation is recognized, particular focus is given to the ecosystem approach, as advocated by the Conversion of Biological Diversity. Themes that will be explored include landscape scale conservation, reserve / protected area design, habitat restoration, and rewilding; particular attention will be given to how wildlife can be conserved in the context of climate change. Adaptive management, threat / vulnerability analysis and abatement, and the importance of stakeholder engagement will be considered. Overall, the module aims to develop students' knowledge and conceptual understanding of key principles relating to the conservation of wildlife, particularly within the context of marked environmental change.