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Human Impacts on Biodiversity


Admission requirements

You must be an MSc student.

Contact information

Coordinator: Dr. N.A. Soudzilovskaia Email:


According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) and the Global IPBES assessment (2019), the global loss of biodiversity is mainly due to five causes related to human activities: Habitat change, Climate change, Invasive species, Overexploitation and Pollution. After a general introduction on the loss and the present state of biodiversity, each of these five causes of biodiversity loss will be presented and discussed extensively during the morning of the first three weeks of the course. The first week will focus on the theoretical background of these five causes. During the second week, case studies and results of laboratory/model-based research, related to these five causes, will be discussed. The third week will also focus on the five causes but introduce case studies and results of field-based research. The afternoons are mostly scheduled to work on the course assignment, although some lectures might take place in the afternoon as well. During the last week of the course, time is scheduled for the finalization of the assignment, the assignment presentations and the preparation for the exam.
Since all human activities are imbedded in social-economic developments, discussing them will include some social-economic aspects. However, the main focus will be on the ecological and physiological mechanisms involved.
The assignment that is part of this course involves writing an NWO-style research proposal for a PhD study focused on one of the five causes of biodiversity loss. The proposal should be focused on ecological research theory (week 1) and should combine laboratory and field research (weeks 2 and 3, respectively). This proposal will also have to be presented by the group.

Learning goals

General learning goals: 1. For all five causes of biodiversity loss, i.e., Habitat change, Climate change, Invasive species, Overexploitation and Pollution, which are covered during lectures, the students are able to:

  • Identify the key concepts and processes

  • Explain the key concepts and processes

  1. The students are able to use the gained knowledge on the five causes of biodiversity loss to:
  • Identify and report new research directions and their related questions.

  • Propose a combination of laboratory and field based research to answer these research questions

  • Present the key concepts and methods of their research proposal to a broad audience

Course objectives:
The objective of this course is to give the student a state-of-the-art insight of scientific developments on human impacts on biodiversity, and to learn to use this information in an integrative way.

Final qualifications:
Being able to reproduce and explain the effects that human activities have on populations, communities and biodiversity; the ecological and physiological mechanisms and impacts of habitat change, climate change, invasive species, overexploitation and pollution on populations, communities and biodiversity.
Being able to propose, formulate and present a combination of laboratory and field based research based on this knowledge.


26 October 2020 – 20 November 2020

In the mornings, the human impacts on biodiversity and related topics are discussed based on presentations by internal and external experts, and selected literature. The afternoons are generally scheduled for working on the assignment or preparing for exams. A combination of different education techniques will be used.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, assignments, presentations, and working groups.

Assessment method

An assignment which consists of a written research proposal and a presentation about this proposal and a final exam are used to evaluate the knowledge and skills of the students.

Inspection and feedback on the examination

Date: To be announced


Brightspace will be used for course information and literature.

Reading list

Literature will be made available on Brightspace



Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for more information on how to apply.


This course is a prime opportunity to learn about the causes of biodiversity loss and a knowledge base for restoring natural environments and ecosystem services.