834002 Conservation biology

Lecture and seminar
Semester hours
Lecturer (assistant)
Meimberg, Harald
Offered in
Wintersemester 2023/24
Languages of instruction


Conservation biology intents to provide the scientific base to define threats to biodiversity and to evaluate and plan related conservation activities. As a research field it had been established in response to the increasing loss of biodiversity and it integrates today elements of the biological sciences like Ecology, Population biology and Evolutionary biology with Ecological Economics and Conservation Ethics.
The class will introduce the major concepts of this research field on the basis of a list of key publications that had been identified a few years ago as the 20 most influential scientific papers for biodiversity conservation (Bradshaw et al., 2010). The aspects covered by the class span, as example, from the influence of island biogeography (McArthur and Wilson 1967) on conservation planning, via the possibility to define minimum population sizes (Schaffer, 1981) and the ecosystem service concept (Ehrlich and Mooney 1983), to findings in the context of biological invasions (invasional meltdown; Simberloff and Van Holle 1999) or global change (e.g. Brook et al. 2008). We will look also at the origin of today very well accepted ideas, like the consequences of habitat fragmentation (Wilcox and Murphy, 1985), the definition of biodiversity hotspots (Myers et al., 2000) and the perception of extinction dynamics as biological discipline (Diamond, 1984); and we will look at studies that influenced the conservation policy like the Red List criteria (Mace and Lande, 1991) or resource management like the effect of ownership (“Tragedy of the commons”; Hardin 1968), forms and consequences of sequential exploitation (“Fishing down the food web; Pauly et al., 1998) and the definition of baselines to estimate resource depletion (Shifting Baselines, Pauly et al.,1995)
The class will provide the scientific background of these 20 topics, will investigate what consequences for biodiversity conservation arises from this and to what extent the respective ideas had been incorporated into conservation and management. The class is complemented by a seminar during which the key publications are discussed and secondary literature is presented.

Previous knowledge expected


Objective (expected results of study and acquired competences)

The students will be able to describe the key concepts in conservation biology and identify fields of conservation practice for which the concepts might play a role. The students can furthermore recognize application of the key concepts or lack of application in management examples and discuss the consequences.
The biological implications for the success of biodiversity conservation can be explained and can be used to evaluate the expected results of conservation activities.
You can find more details like the schedule or information about exams on the course-page in BOKUonline.