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Management of Protected Areas

Ionian University, Department of Environment
Syllabus, Lecture, Practicum, Course material
Thematic Area
Technology, Natural Sciences
Factual description
The undergraduate course “Management of Protected Areas” of the Department of Environment, Ionian University, Greece has been selected to be examined since it is relative to COSY.
Protected areas by default comprise particularly complex systems that encompass ecosystem processes (biological and ecological), provide ecosystem goods and services while they are integrally linked to socioeconomic aspects and human induced threats posed upon the protected elements. Protected areas are managed through an also complex governance regime that is ruled by bottom - up and top –down approaches, involving policy and decision makers, various stakeholders, NGOs, local and regional authorities, public services, academia and conservation practitioners. Therefore these areas can be merely viewed as complex and interrelated biological, ecological and socioeconomic systems inherently governed by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Teaching of such complex systems is challenging since they have to be presented in an integrated way by unravelling both stochastic and deterministic processes and mechanisms that act in concert and include considerable levels of uncertainty.
In this course a multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary approach is used. Cause - effect pathways are used as a tool to investigate the complex systems of protected areas by combining scientific knowledge and empirical evidence gained worldwide. As we move on to higher levels of complexity where different subsystems interact with each other, then a decision making tree like approach can be of use.
Visualization with infographics, flow charts and charts can largely contribute to the better understanding of complex systems. In addition, the presentation of relevant case studies and field exercises may enhance the level of understanding by students.
When it comes to management of protected areas, at the end of the course, students should be capable of recognizing protected areas as systems. So introduction to system thinking is totally necessary. First the different levels of complexity of the system are broken down and then the system is built up in a holistic approach. This back and forth process can facilitate students to understand systems thinking.
Relevance in complex systems
This course is relevant to complex systems since it deals with the management of protected areas that are complex systems by default.
Strong points
The strong point of this course is that contains field exercises that enhance the level of understanding of complex systems by the students.
Transferability potential
Field exercises and decision making tree-like approaches can be incorporated to other courses as well and especially those with environmental content.