Information in the Degree Programme Tables may still be subject to change in response to Covid-19

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Earth Science

Undergraduate Course: Marine Systems and Policies (UG) (EASC10083)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryMarine (coastal and ocean) environments are fundamental features of the Earth system that are profoundly influenced by human interactions. As these ecosystems are trans-boundary and multi-dimensional the policy instruments governing the utilization of coastal ocean systems are complex. However, policies, laws and regulations are often disconnected to the scale and dynamics of targeted ecosystems and species in both time and space (e.g. oceanographic processes, migratory species, multi-site life stages). Many global to local scale policies can be more effective, support deeper understanding of ecosystem processes, and take into account cumulative impacts of social pressures and environmental change, when viewed through an ecosystem lens from the past and looking ahead. Additionally, as technology advances, human population increases and energy demands combine to extend the horizons of marine exploration and exploitation further offshore, a robust understanding of policies impacts and ecology responses in coastal-ocean realms is increasingly vital.

This course uses case studies to gain an understanding of marine conservation measure and spatial planning to explore linkages between different scales of coastal-ocean ecosystem processes and ecological dynamics in connection with applicable scales of policy instruments (e.g. Law of the Sea, Convention of Biodiversity, UNESCO World Heritage; regional conventions; Local codes and policies framed around fishing regulations, coastal zoning, and traditional knowlege). Diverse case studies across a range of biomes, scales, and issues are considered to examine and test the suitability of different policies for different ecosystem scales, environmental issues and socio-cultural contexts. Examples of case study scales include: Archipelagos and Islands, Estuaries, Semi-enclosed Seas, Continental Margins, Polar Seas, and Global Oceans.

While most courses in GeoSciences are terrestrial in orientation, this course is focuses on marine ecosystems, issues and policies in an integrated way that provides foundational learning for critical analysis of marine environments and human impacts. This course will help prepare students for positions in governments, NGOs, environmental consultancies and private enterprise requiring competency at the science-policy interface.
(Note: This course is co-taught as a 20c course for (PGT only) and 10c for a small number of fourth year Env GeoScience and Ecology, with joint lecture sessions. The PGT 20c has additional discussion groups and journal response assignments. Group Presentations will be presented by both 10c and 20c groupings, with all attending. Both 10c and 20c will have individual policy position papers.)
Course description The first part of the course has lectures on different marine biomes, followed by exemplary case studies from academic staff and guest lectures from government and NGO organizations. Together these illustrate a range of issues and societal contexts through which different policies will be examined. Building on lectures and case studies, students will conduct their own case-study policy analysis though group presentations and an individual essay. (NOTE THE LECTURE/TOPIC ORDER MAY BE REVISED TO ACCOMMODATE GUEST SPEAKER SCHEDULES)

Week 1 | 21 Sept: Course overview, goals and organization
- Introduction to coastal-ocean ecosystems in the context of science, policy and management
- Introduction to Course logic, structure, assessments, etc.
- Timing: PGT + UG: 9:30 - 11:30 (approximate end time on first day)

Week 2 | 28 Sept: Archipelagos, Atolls and Islands Biome
Coral reefs and island habitats, World Heritage on island biogeography, ecology and cultures, connectivity across similar sites; sea level rise; habitat loss; cultural values, formal and traditional governance, and islands as anchors for oceanic MPAs (e.g. Polynesia, Indian Ocean)
- Timing: PGT 9:30-10:15 Discussion Group, PGT + UG: Lectures 10:30-13:00

Week 3 | 5 Oct: Estuaries, Bays and Semi-enclosed Seas Biome
Deltas, wetlands, shallow seas; national and regional marine policies on transboundary issues pollution, fisheries, land to sea based impacts. (e.g., NE Atlantic OSPAR, Mediterranean- Barcelona Convention,
- Timing: PGT 9:30 - 10:15 Discussion Group, PGT + UG: Lectures 10:30-13:00

Week 4 | 12 Oct: : Transboundary Shorelines Biome
Conservation and restoration across large scale transboundary shorelines (e.g. marine parks across large scale, linear coasts
- Timing: PGT 9:30-10:15 Discussion Group, PGT + UG: Lectures 10:30-13:00

Week 5 | 19 Oct: Continental Margins and Shelves Biome
Offshore features, upwelling, seabed, seamounts, and reefs, challenging balances between conservation and extraction(e.g. mining, fisheries), international agreements for marine ecosystems (VMEs) and ecologically biologically senstive areas (EBSAs)
- Timing: PGT 9:30-10:15 Discussion Group, PGT + UG: Lectures 10:30-13:00

Week 6 | 26 Oct: Polar Seas Biome and Policy Paper & Presentation Design Tutorial
Features and challenges of the changing climate and political dynamics in the Arctic and Antarctic regions and Seas
(Presentation Groups Assigned)
- Timing: PGT 9:30-10:15 Discussion Group, PGT + UG: Lectures 10:30-13:00

Week 7 | 2 Nov: Global Oceans
Large ocean states, ocean acidification, migratory species, and large ocean EEZs, high seas, global instruments, Biodiversity Convention, UN Law of Sea.
- Timing: PGT 9:30-10:15 Discussion Group, PGT + UG: Lectures 10:30-13:00

Week 8 | 9 Nov UG and PGT Group Presentations
- Timing: PGT + UG: all attend 9:30-13:00

Week 9 | 16 Nov: PGT Group Presentations Continued.
- Timing: PGT + UG: all 9:30-13:00.

Week 10 | 23 Nov: No class:
1) UG Policy Paper Due on LEARN 12:00 NOON ( (Monday, 20 Nov)
2 ) PGT - Marine Policy Papers Writing Week

Week 11 | 30 Dec: Policy Paper Abstracts Symposia - 3 minute 'flash' talks on individual policy papers.
- Timing: PGT + UG: all 9:30-12:30
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Field Course in Tropical Marine and Terrestrial Geoscience (EASC09036)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Only available to 4th Year Ecology and Environmental GeoSciences Students.
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand coastal-marine ecosystem processes with regard to the inter-dynamics of different scales and human dimensions and drivers of environmental change.
  2. Be familiar with a array of conservation pathways and scenarios for recovery, e.g. habitat conservation and restoration.
  3. Be familiar with examples of key national and international marine conservation policies.
  4. Conduct reviews of key literature and policies, developing the capacity to conduct policy analysis and solutions for different settings and scales, resulting in a formal policy paper.
  5. Be able to develop and demonstrate leadership and participation in group discussions, and team based oral presentations.
Reading List
For our guides along the way, we will be using Marine Ecology: Processes, Systems, and Impacts, 2nd ed., by Michel Kaiser, et al. While this text book is not required, it is highly recommended and some copies will likely be available in the main Central Library and the KB Library, and for purchase from a bookstore of your choice (e.g. Blackwells in Edinburgh, Amazon etc). We also utilize relevant chapters from the 2014 Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). While the textbook provides an ongoing and consistent backdrop to the course, we primarily use engage with a preliminary set of core readings from academic journal articles as indicated below. In addition, we will provide further topical readings on the different biomes and case studies along the way, building a ┐marine library┐ for your use in this class and beyond.

The indicated readings for each week are listed below and will be available online or via LEARN.

Week 1. Coastal-ocean diversity in the context of science, policy and management.

┐ Textbook - Marine Ecology, Ch. 16, pp. 429┐449.
┐ IPCC AR5, 2013. Working Group II (Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability). (via: (Selected chapters during the class.)
┐ IOC UNESCO, IMO, FAO, UNDP (2011). A Blueprint for Ocean and Coastal Sustainability.
┐ UN Sustainable Development Goals ┐ SDG No. 14 ┐ Life Under Water
┐ Palumbi, S.R. et. al., 2009. Managing for ocean biodiversity to sustain marine ecosystem services. Frontiers in Ecology 7(4):204┐211.
┐ Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, et al The Impact of Climate Change on the World┐s Marine Ecosystems.┐Science 328, 1523 (2010); DOI: 10.1126/science.1189930
┐ Charles, A. 2012. People, oceans and scale: governance, livelihoods and climate change adaptation in marine social┐ecological systems. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability. Vol 4: 351-357.
Week 2. Archipelagos, Atolls and Islands Biome

┐ Textbook - Marine Ecology, Ch. 11, pp. 305┐324.
┐ Riegl, B. et al., 2009. Coral reefs: threats and conservation in an era of global change. The Year in Ecology and Conservation Biology, Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1162:136┐186.
┐ Nurse, LA et al., 2014. Small islands. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects. f Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 1613-1654.
┐ Woodruff, C.D., 2008. Reef-island topography and the vulnerability of atolls to sea-level rise. Global and Planetary Change 62 (2008) 77┐96.
┐ Rocliffe, et al, 2014. Towards A Network of Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) in the Western Indian Ocean. PLOS ONE Vol 9, Issue 7, e103000
┐ Foale, S. et. al. 2011. Tenure and taboos: origins and implications for fisheries in the Pacific. Fish and Fisheries, 12, 357-369.
┐ Donner and Webber, 2014. Obstacles to climate change adaptation decisions: a case study of SLR and coastal protection in Kiribati. Sustain Sci 9:331┐345 DOI 10.1007/s11625-014-0242-z
┐ Yamamoto, L. and, Miguel Esteban, M. 2010. Vanishing Island States and sovereignty. Ocean & Coastal Management 53 (2010) 1┐9.

Week 3. Estuaries and Semi-enclosed Seas

┐ Textbook - Marine Ecology, Ch. 5, pp. 143┐171, and Ch. 10, pp. 277┐304.
┐ Poh, P.W., et. al., 2014: Coastal systems and low-lying areas, Chapter 5. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
┐ Jackson, J.B.C., et. al., 2001. Historical Overfishing and the Recent Collapse of Coastal Ecosystems. Science VOL 293 27 JULY 2001.
┐ Lejeusne, C. 2009. Climate change effects on a miniature ocean: the highly diverse, highly impacted Mediterranean Sea. Trends in Ecology and Evolution Vol.25 No.4 (250-260).
┐ Hughes T.P. et. al., 2013. Living dangerously on borrowed time during slow, unrecognized regime shifts. Trends in Ecology and Evolution Vol 28 no. 3. 149-155.

Week 4. Transboundary Shorelines

┐ Textbook - Marine Ecology, Ch. 13, pp. 357┐376.
┐ Mills, et al, 2015. Real-world progress in overcoming the challenges of adaptive spatial planning in marine protected areas. Biological Conservation, Vol 181, Pages 54┐63
┐ Dayton, P.K., M.J. Tegner, P.B. Edwards, and K.L. Riser (1998). Sliding Baselines, Ghosts, and Reduced Expectations in Kelp Forest Communities. Ecol. Appl., 8(2):309┐322.
┐ Fernandes, et al, 2005. Establishing Representative No-Take Areas in the Great Barrier Reef: Large-Scale Implementation of Theory on Marine Protected Areas. Conservation Biology, Volume 19, Issue 6, Pages 1733┐1744

Week 5. Continental Margins and Shelves Biome

┐ Textbook - Marine Ecology, Ch. 8, pp. 217┐250.
┐ Levin, L. A. and Sibuet, M., 2012. Understanding Continental Margin Biodiversity:┐A New Imperative. Annual Review Marine Science 2012. 4:8.1┐8.34
┐ Armstrong C.W., et. al., 2012. Services from the deep: steps towards valuation of deep sea goods and services. Ecosystem Services 2 (2012) 2-13.
┐ Roberts, et. al., 2006. Reefs of the Deep: The Biology and Geology of Cold-Water Coral Ecosystems. Science Vol 312 (543-547)

Week 6. Polar Sea Biome; and Tutorial for Policy Paper and Group Presentation

┐ Textbook - Marine Ecology, Ch. 12, pp. 325┐353.
┐ IPCC - Larsen, et al, 2014: Chapter 28: Polar regions. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.
┐ Schofield, et al 2010. How Do Polar Marine Ecosystems Respond to Rapid Climate Change? SCIENCE, VOL 328 1520-1522
┐ Dodds K (2010) Governing Antarctica: Contemporary Challenges and the Enduring Legacy of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, Global Policy Vol.1(1)
┐ Griffiths HJ (2010) Antarctic Marine Biodiversity ┐ What Do We Know About the Distribution of Life in the Southern Ocean? PLoS ONE 5(8): e11683. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011683
┐ Croxall, et al, 2002. Environmental Change and Antarctic Seabird Populations, SCIENCE, VOL 297, 1510-1514

Week 7. Global Oceans

┐ Textbook - Marine Ecology, Ch. 7, pp. 194┐216.
┐ IPCC - Po┐rtner, et al, 2014: Ocean systems. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
┐ Sumaliam U.R., et al., 2011. Climate change impacts on the biophysics and economics of world fisheries. Nature Climate Change, Vol 1. 449┐456.
┐ Block, B.A., et al., 2011. Tracking apex marine predator movements in a dynamic ocean. Nature, Vol 475, 86-90.
┐ Warner, R.M., 2014. Conserving marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction: co-evolution and interaction with the law of the sea. Frontiers in Marine Science, Vol 1, Article 6.
┐ Wagner, et al, 2013. Big Ocean ┐ A Shared Research Agenda for Large Scale MPAs.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Capacity to conduct context based policy analysis to develop solutions for different settings and scales;
- Writing brief critiques and reviews of key literature and policies.
- Leadership and participation in group discussions on complex topics, scientific literature and examples;
- Team based oral presentations and participation in an Abstracts Symposia.
- Researching, constructing and delivering individual 'white paper/position paper.
KeywordsMarine,coastal ocean ecosystems; biophysical processes and scales; marine policy and governance; cl
Course organiserDr Sebastian Hennige
Tel: (0131 6)50 5410
Course secretaryMiss Sarah Thomas
Tel: (0131 6)50 8510
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information