This course focuses on biodiversity loss and the importance of biodiversity conservation. In this course, students will survey the patterns of global diversity within various biomes and learn the most pressing threats leading to declines in biodiversity. Students will be introduced to the theory and principles involved in conservation and learn about governmental and non-governmental efforts to protect natural environments and develop sustainable practices to meet human needs. In addition, there will be a natural history film, guest lecturers, and field trips to view conservation in practice, namely the Schönbrunn Zoo (ex-situ) and Wienerwald Biosphere Reserve (in-situ).
Lectures, discussions, exercises, films, assigned readings, and two assignments will focus on the following:
1. Global biodiversity patterns and factors affecting variation in terrestrial, marine, and aquatic ecosystems; emphasis will be placed on regional diversity hotspots and important conservation areas including IUCN classified protected areas, RAMSAR sites, Biosphere Reserves and other systems of global significance.
2. Philosophical and ethical questions of biodiversity conservation will also be discussed, e.g. Why should we conserve biodiversity? Should a price be put on the value of species or ecosystems? Is there a special duty to protect (endangered) species? etc.
3. Threats to biodiversity resulting from life history patterns, population size, and other factors coupled with trends in human population growth and associated activities (HIPPO dilemma).
4. Priorities in conservation and conservation planning (case studies & exercises).
5. The role of hunting in biodiversity conservation.
6. Community-based conservation (CBC). Efforts of integrating conservation and development (ICDPs), and using conservation as a form of poverty alleviation.