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Protected Areas

Module titleProtected Areas
Module codeBIOM4041
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Professor Callum Roberts (Lecturer)

Dr Julie Hawkins (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The modern era is called the Anthropocene in view of the rising influence of people on almost every aspect of planetary life. Human impacts are causing widespread habitat destruction and biodiversity loss to such an extent that many argue we have now initiated the sixth mass extinction. Against this backdrop, protected areas increasingly play a critical role in alleviating pressures to save wildlife and habitats. In 2020, global targets for protected area coverage could rise from 17% of land and 10% of sea by 2020, to 30% of both by 2030. We are therefore in the middle of a period of intensive protected area creation. But despite successes, many protected areas are failing to meet their objectives, and biodiversity losses continue. In this module you will learn about the history of protected areas and how to select, design, establish and manage protected areas, including developing networks of mutually supporting protected areas. We will explore what protected areas can achieve and the ecological and social factors required to make them successful.

The module assumes no specific skills or experience, and there are no pre-requisite modules required. It is accessible for non-specialist students, including those on multi-disciplinary pathways.

Module aims - intentions of the module

Protected areas play an increasing role in the management of the living world and the amelioration of human impacts. Many organisations and agencies are contributing to the establishment and management of protected areas. Given global targets for increasing protected area coverage, work in this field is expected to become an area of rapid employment growth, providing many opportunities for graduates. The module will give a broad overview of protected areas from selection to establishment and management, providing essential knowledge for professional work in this field.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe the main drivers of biodiversity loss and the role protected areas can play in mitigating them.
  • 2. Describe in detail the process of creating protected areas, from selection to management.
  • 3. Understand and explain the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches to implementation and management of protected areas.
  • 4. Discuss the reasons why many protected areas fail to fully protect biodiversity and understand how to improve their success.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Describe in detail and analyse essential facts and theory.
  • 6. Analyse and evaluate independently a range of research-informed literature and synthesise examples into written work.
  • 7. Identify and implement, with limited guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for solving a range of complex problems in protected area management.
  • 8. With minimal guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, investigation, and enquiry.
  • 9. Describe and evaluate in detail approaches to our understanding of protected areas with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Devise and sustain, with little guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions.
  • 11. Communicate effectively arguments, evidence, and conclusions using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience.
  • 12. Analyse and evaluate appropriate data and complete a range of research-like tasks with very limited guidance.
  • 13. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to graduate-level professional and practical skills, and act autonomously to develop new areas of skills as necessary.
  • 14. Reflect effectively and independently on learning experiences and evaluate personal achievements.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:


Part 1: The need for protected areas

Overview of drivers of biodiversity loss (CR)

Extinction (CR)

Part 2: Selecting and designing protected areas

Selection criteria for protected areas (JH)

Selection criteria continued (JH)

Design of protected areas: Size, numbers, replication (CR)

Design of protected areas: Shape, coverage (CR)

Networking principles (CR)

Computer-based protected area selection (CR)

Practical session 1: How to approach the coursework task (JH)

Part 3: Managing protected areas

Setting conservation objectives (CR)

Why do so many protected areas fail to meet their objectives? (JH)

How much protection is enough? (CR)

Preconditions for success (JH)

Monitoring, surveillance, compliance and enforcement (JH)

Practical session 2: Coursework discussion and question and answer session (JH & CR)

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching13Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching2Practical discussion sessions
Guided independent learning 135Additional research, reading and preparation for module assessments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Discussions during lectures and practical sessionsOngoing throughout the moduleAllOral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Poster201 page1-12Written
Design a new protected area, or redesign an existing one, explain its conservation goals and describe how it will be managed to achieve them.803000 words1-12Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Poster1 page1-12Referral/deferral period
3000 word report3000 word report1-12Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to re-submit an assessment as described in the table above. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 50%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • There is no specific course text for this module, but there are useful guides produced by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which will be recommended and are downloadable for free.

Module has an active ELE page

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Lecture specific research papers
  • Research reading around coursework report.

Key words search

Protected areas, MPA, biodiversity, biodiversity loss, biodiversity protection, habitat loss, habitat protection, extinction, climate change, conservation, ecosystem, conservation objectives, management, national and international targets.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date