Postgraduate taught 

Animal Welfare Science, Ethics & Law MSc

Economic tools for conservation BIOL5325

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Biodiversity One Health Vet Med
  • Credits: 10
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course introduces masters students to concepts within environmental economics which are useful for analysing and designing conservation policies globally. No prior understanding of economics is necessary. Economics has a number of important insights which it can offer to the design and analysis of conservation policy. For example, how to identify the most cost-effective ways to achieve biodiversity targets; how to measure the willingness of people to fund conservation actions; and how to design payment for ecosystem services which effectively deliver environmental benefits. This new course introduces students to these insights, and to the economic tools which can be used to undertake policy analysis and policy design. We will also make students aware of the considerable empirical literature now available which illustrates the application of these tools in a range of contexts globally.


five, 2-hour lectures; five 2-hour tutorials

Excluded Courses





Students will write one essay of 3000 words maximum length on one of 3 questions set at the beginning of the course, based on a set of references provided and their own in-depth search of the literature (60% of assessment).

They will also produce two "policy briefing reports" written on the basis of group discussions during the tutorial sessions and their own individual work for (i) design of PES schemes (ii) use of choice modelling to inform PES scheme design. These reports will be written in non-technical language and be of no more than 500 words in length, supported by at least one Figure. Each report will be worth 20% of the total assessment.

Course Aims

To introduce students to the tools which economics can offer to help in the design and analysis of nature conservation policy, Specifically, the course aims to:

■ Help students to understand the concepts of opportunity cost, strategic behaviour, economic value, portfolio theory and incentive design

■ Bring students up to date with the most recent innovations in applying economics to the analysis of conservation problems

■ Show how economics can help identify and quantify sources of finance for conservation actions

Explain how cost-benefit analysis offers a valuable tool for presenting the case for conservation, and for targeting conservation actions

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


1. Critically discuss and evaluate concepts such as cost-effectiveness, cost-benefit analysis and payment for ecosystem service (PES) schemes, with reference to the evidence base and to economic theory

2. Critically compare and contrast alternative design options for nature conservation policies on private land;

3. Critically discuss ideas of economic efficiency, benefits and costs as tools for analysing conservation problems in a wide range of global settings

4. Conduct economic analysis of specific examples of conservation policy

5.  Explain the results of such analysis to non-specialists, the policy community and other relevant stakeholders

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.