Introduction to ecosystem services


Environmental and Regional Studies (3rd level)

Biodiversity and ecology (3rd Cycle)
Paleobiology and sedimentary geology (3rd Cycle)
Regional studies (3rd Cycle)

Course code: DI013
Year of study: 1st year

Course principal:
Assist. Prof. Mateja Šmid Hribar, Ph. D.
Assist. Prof. Daniela Alexandra Teixeira da Costa Ribeiro, Ph. D.


Workload: lectures 30 hours, tutorial 20 hours, field work 10 hours, individual work 120 hours.
Course type: common elective
Languages: Slovene, English
Learning and teaching methods: lectures, seminars, e-learning


Course syllabus (download)


Finished second Bologna level in the appropriate field or University degree VII.


Content (Syllabus outline):

The course discusses the potentials of the recently developed concept of ecosystem services. During the course, the key concept of ecosystem services, its capacities and limitations when applied to relevant policies will be explained.


The content is divided into three main parts, as following:

  1. Theoretical part (Different classifications and types of ecosystem services; limits of it’s application; recent trends in global research … )
  2. Practical part highlighting the use of the concept and dilemmas (Potential application of this concept in politicies; assessment and evaluation; trade-offs and synergies of ecosystem services in landscape management; pros & cons of valuing ecosystem services; ethical questions …)
  3. Field work (exercise and critical thinking to apply the concepts learned; reflection upon what we’re benefiting from the environment around us).


The theme is linked to other concepts such as climate change, biodiversity, natural resource use, nature based solutions, governing of common-pool resources and human well-being, all aiming to contribute to efficient and sustainable management and governance of natural resources and transition to more resilient societies.



  • Millenium Ecosystem Assesment (2005). Ecosystems and human well-being: Synthesis. Washington.
  • de Groot, R. S., Alkemade, R., Braat, L., Hein, L., Willemen, L. (2010). Challenges in integrating the concept of ecosystem services and values in landscape planning, management and decision making. Ecological Complexity 7-3, 260-272.
  • Burkhard, B., Kroll, F., Nedkov, S., & Müller, F. (2012). Mapping ecosystem service supply, demand and budgets. Ecological Indicators 21, 17-29.
  • Howe, C., Suich, H., Virac, B., Macea, G. M. (2014). Creating win-wins from trade-offs? Ecosystem services for human well-being: A meta-analysis of ecosystem service trade-offs and synergies in the real world. Global Environmental Change 28(1): 263-275.
  • Loft L., Mann, C., Hansjürgens, B., (2015). Challenges in ecosystem-services governance: Multi-levels, multi-actors, multi-rationalities. Ecosystem Services 16, 150-157.
  • Heydinger, J. M., (2016). Reinforcing the Ecosystem Services Perspective: The Temporal Component. Ecosystems 19: 661-673. DOI: 10.1007/s10021-016-9959-0
  • Bennet, E. M. (2017). Research Frontiers in Ecosystem Service Science. Ecosystems 20, 31–37.
  • Burkhard, B., & Maes, J. (eds) (2017). Mapping Ecosystem Services. Pensoft Publishers, Sofia, 374 pp.


Objectives and competences:

The mainly contributes to the development of the following general and specific competences:

  • knowledge of ecosystem services, its roles and assessment;
  • get familiar with various methods and approaches to assess different types of ecosystem services;
  • develop knowledge and skills in the science underpinning environmental issues;
  • evaluate societies’ role in the natural world and human-nature interactions;
  • develop ability to thinking about the environment and our place in it;
  • improve research skills in a seminar work, and
  • get familiar with selected examples of the concept of ecosystem services at different spatial levels.


Intended learning outcomes:

Through lectures the students will gain knowledge and understanding about the linkage between nature and society. The in-depth study enables students to independently analyze the potentials, challenges and dilemmas of the concept of ecosystem services. The students will:

  • be able to explain the concept of ‘ecosystem services’;
  • understand different types of services that ecosystems provide;
  • be familiarized with the main methods and approaches for mapping and assessing ecosystem services;
  • understand the dilemmas associated with valuing and use of ecosystems, and
  • be able to apply the concept to their future study.



Student engagement (10 %), exam (50 %), seminar work (delivery and presentation, 40 %).