Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services
Focusing on the global dynamics of biodiversity and ecosystem resilience, this module helps students understand critical ecosystem services that underpin the well-being of different societal groups in South Africa, and how these can be managed or restored to build resilience and support transitions in complex, interconnected social-ecological systems (SES).
This course will focus on the global dynamics of biodiversity and ecosystem resilience. Whereas climate change and resource depletion are two of the well-known concerns within the sustainability field, the scientific focus on biodiversity and ecosystems constitutes the third leg of sustainability science research. This module will help students understand critical ecosystem services such as freshwater, crop production, grazing, climate regulation that underpin the well-being of different societal groups in South Africa, and how these ecosystem services can be managed or restored to build resilience and support transitions in complex, interconnected social-ecological systems (SES). This will entail an analysis of which parameters influence feasible investments in restoration of ecosystems and their services, and the potential for green infrastructure to act as an alternative for physical man-made infrastructure. Particular attention will be paid to identifying possible tipping points that could trigger large, abrupt, nonlinear changes that threaten critical ecosystem services and hence the potential for structurally transforming the economy and alleviating poverty. Using the Inclusive Wealth framework students will be introduced to assessment methods that value key ecosystem services and the potential economic consequences of transgressing possible tipping points. The major types of SES in South Africa will be described and their ecological, social and economic sustainability assessed in order to identify key leverage points for transitioning to more sustainable SES. To balance out this economic perspective, students will also be introduced to deep ecology perspectives that value the non-quantifiable benefits of a reconnection to nature.
Post-graduate students and practitioners seeking an introduction to the basic principles of ecosystems, how social-ecological systems operate and the implications for societies to thrive within resilient natural systems.