UNU-IC Course Outline: Natural Capital and Biodiversity– Nature-based Solutions

  • This course, part of the UNU Intensive Core Courses (UNU-IC), is intended to provide graduate students with an understanding of and a multidisciplinary perspective on natural capital, biodiversity, human well-being and their interactions, as well as the integration of human needs and ecosystem functioning in ecosystem management and governance. The course will provide an overview of global, national and local consequences of ecosystem changes and drivers of these changes, to introduce a sustainable approach for nature-based solutions and ecosystems management at different levels.

    The course will introduce the latest conceptual framework developed by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which has been promoting four key functions at the regional and global scales: assessment, knowledge generation, capacity building and policy support. Particular focus will be placed on ecosystem future scenarios, indigenous and local knowledge and nature-based solutions such as payment for ecosystem services (PES), eco-tourism, and ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR), in dealing with natural capital and biodiversity challenges. Students will become familiar with the concepts and tools of ecosystem assessment, and gain an ability to choose appropriate analysis methods and management options (solutions) for sustainable development in harmony with nature.

    Scenario analysis has been increasingly recognized to be a useful tool for exploring plausible future paths to meet uncertain social and environmental changes. Scenarios are plausible alternative future situations based on a particular set of assumptions and their consequences coupled with impact models; scenarios exhibit a lower certainty compared to projections, forecasts, or predictions (Dı´az et al. 2015). Scenarios have been widely utilized for global environmental assessments, such as assessment reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Global Environmental Outlook, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), and IPBES.

    Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are defined by IUCN as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”. IUCN has identified five major approaches of NbS:
    (1) Ecosystem restoration approaches (e.g. ecological restoration, and landscape restoration),
    (2) Issue-specific ecosystem-related approaches (e.g. ecosystem-based adaptation and mitigation, and ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction),
    (3) Infrastructure-related approaches (e.g. green infrastructure),
    (4) Ecosystem-based management approaches (e.g. Integrated coastal zone management, and integrated water resources management), and
    (5) Ecosystem protection approaches (e.g. area-based conservation).


    Osamu Saito (Academic Programme Officer, UNU-IAS)
    Riyanti Djalante (Academic Programme Officer, UNU-IAS)

    Course Outline

    Cluster 1: Biodiversity in the Context of Global Change and Ecosystem Assessments from Local, National, Regional to Global Scale

      Lecture 1: Global Change and Challenges of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
      – Assessment landscape
      – Global Environmental Outlook (GEO)
      – Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO)
      – Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA)
      Lecture 2: Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)
      – Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
      – CBD’s International targets and strategy: Aichi Biodiversity Targets
      – National targets and strategy
      – IPBES Conceptual Framework and IPBES global and regional assessments

      Lecture 3: Toward the Creation of a Sustainable Society in Harmony with Nature
      – Socio-ecological production landscapes and SATOYAMA Initiative
      – Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)
      – The Great East Japan Earthquake and Formulation of the National Biodiversity Strategy 2012-2020
      – The New Commons and a New Business Model
      Lecture 4: Scenarios in Environmental Assessments
      – Scenario approaches
      – Case studies of ecosystem scenarios and modelling
      – Scenarios planning and policy support

      Lecture 5: Japan Satoyama and Satoumi Assessment (JSSA) and sustainable social-ecological systems
      – What are Satoyama and Satoumi?
      – Relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem services in Satoyama
      – Lessons learnt from JSSA Satoyama
      – Interaction between social and ecological systems: case study in drylands of Northeast Asia

    Cluster 2: The Economics and Governance of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

      Lecture 6: Economic Assessments of Ecosystem Services
      – Economic valuation: methodology and tools
      – Market approach
      – Revealed preference
      – Stated preference
      Lecture 7: Mid-term interactive session
      – Mid-term Group Presentation

      Lecture 8: Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and integration of local knowledge
      – Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction: Theory and practices
      – Integration of local and traditional knowledge

      Lecture 9: Governance of biodiversity and ecosystem services
      – Overview of latest development in international environmental governance
      – Innovation in governance of biodiversity and ecosystem services
      – From policies and policy implementation of biodiversity
      – The biodiversity and ecosystem services science-policy interface
      – Governance for ecosystem-based climate change adaptation

      Lecture 10: Natural Capital and Wealth Accounts
      – Definition and typology of natural capital
      – Ecosystem services and natural capital (Flows and stocks)
      – Economics of natural capital: Valuation and methods
      – Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI)
      – Decision science on nature reflecting the Great East Japan Earthquake

      Lecture 11: Nature-based solutions
      – Stakeholders involved in biological resource use; stakeholder analysis across the value chain
      – Solution scanning for multi-level governance of natural capital
      – Policy instruments and implications for sustainability principles- in terms of economic, environmental and social sustainability

      Lecture 12: Payment for ecosystem services I
      – Introduction to Payment for ecosystem services (video: 5 minutes)
      – Concept of ecosystem services and functions (watershed, biodiversity and carbon sequestration)
      – Case of conservation auction to estimate ES supply curve and induce behavioural changing of smallholders (optional, if time allows)

      Lecture 13: Payment for ecosystem services II
      – Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) – Myths and realities
      – Scope of PES, Co-investment for landscape stewardship
      – Case studies of Payment for Ecosystem Services in developing countries
      – Boundary work: knowledge co-production for negotiating payment for watershed services

      Lecture 14: Final group presentation and wrap-up session
      – Group presentations: Instructions for group work will be provided at the beginning of the course
      – Interaction and dialogue among students, lecturers, and resource persons
      – Future research agendas and actions

    Final Exam

    Final Paper


    *Please note that topics and schedule are subject to change.


    • Dr. Osamu Saito, UNU-IAS
    • Dr. Shizuka Hashimoto, The University of Tokyo
    • Prof. Toshiya Okuro, The University of Tokyo
    • Prof. Shunsuke Managi, Kyushu University
    • Prof. Shigeru Matsumoto, Aoyama Gakuin University
    • Dr. Beria Leimona, ICRAF, UNU-IAS
    • Dr. Riyanti Djalante, UNU-IAS
    • Dr. Takehito Yoshida, The University of Tokyo