Postgraduate taught 

Quantitative Methods in Biodiversity, Conservation & Epidemiology MSc

Economic tools for conservation BIOL5325

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • 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 students to concepts within environmental economics which are useful for analysing and designing conservation policies globally. Economics has a number of important insights which it can offer to the design and analysis of conservation policy. This course introduces students to these insights, and to the economic tools which can be used to undertake policy analysis and policy design. It 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.


This course is made up of lectures and tutorials which take place in semester 2.

Excluded Courses





Students will write one essay of 2000 words maximum length (70% of assessment). The essay addresses ILOs 1,2 and 3.

They will also produce two "policy briefing reports" 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. Only the second of these will count for assessment: the first report will be read and commented on, and feedback provided to students so they can write a better second policy report. This second report will be worth 30% of the total assessment. The briefing reports address ILOs 4 and 5.

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.