The University of Southampton

ENVS6027 Natural Resource Governance

Module Overview

Who makes environmental policy? Who takes decisions about how different natural resources are managed on a day-to-day basis? Why does there often seem to be a gap between policy and management? This module examines the development of environmental policy at multiple levels from local to global. We further analyse the role of different actors in governing resources, examining the role of international conventions, market-based (private sector) approaches, the increasing trend towards community-based resource governance and the regulatory responsibilities of national governments. We study concepts and theories in a variety of applied contexts through case studies, field trips and seminars, focusing particularly on water and forest resources, both North and South.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

This module aims to provide students with a broad overview of environmental policy and governance at local to international scales. Students will begin to appreciate the complexities of interactions between different policies and governance approaches, including both marketbased and regulatory approaches, necessary to achieve more sustainable natural resource management outcomes.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The need for both a multi-disciplinary and an interdisciplinary approach in advancing knowledge and understanding of Earth systems, drawing, as appropriate, from the natural and the social sciences
  • The processes which shape the natural world at different temporal and spatial scales and their influence on and by human activities
  • The terminology, nomenclature and classification systems used in environmental science
  • Issues concerning the availability and sustainability of resources, for example, the different value sets relating to the Earth's resources as commodities and/or heritage
  • The contribution of environmental science to debate on environmental issues and how knowledge of these forms the basis for informed concern about the Earth and its people
  • The contribution of environmental science to the development of knowledge of the world we live in
  • The applicability of environmental science to the world of work
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Receiving and responding to a variety of information sources (eg textual, numerical, verbal, graphical)
  • Developing an adaptable and flexible approach to study and work
  • Communicating appropriately to a variety of audiences in written, verbal and graphical forms
  • Preparing, processing, interpreting and presenting data, using appropriate qualitative and quantitative techniques and packages including geographic information systems
  • Using the internet critically as a means of communication and a source of information
  • Identifying individual and collective goals and responsibilities and performing in a manner appropriate to these roles
  • Recognising and respecting the views and opinions of other team members
  • Evaluating performance as an individual and a team member
  • Developing the skills necessary for self-managed and lifelong learning (eg working independently, time management and organisation skills)
  • Identifying and working towards targets for personal, academic and career development
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Planning, conducting, and reporting on environmental investigations, including the use of secondary data
  • Referencing work in an appropriate manner
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Recognising and using subject-specific theories, paradigms, concepts and principles
  • Analysing, synthesising and summarising information critically, including prior research
  • Collecting and integrating several lines of evidence to formulate and test hypotheses
  • Applying knowledge and understanding to complex and multidimensional problems in familiar and unfamiliar contexts
  • Recognising the moral and ethical issues of investigations and appreciating the need for professional codes of conduct


The module is divided into 4 sections comprising lectures, workshops and other learning methods and activities. A. CONCEPTS The first part of the module will focus on the key theories, concepts and principles of natural resource governance. Topics covered will include the policy cycle, the distinction between natural resource (NR) governance and management, components of NR governance, principles of good NR governance (accountability, transparency, participation, fairness), different types of NR property (private, state, common) leading on to various forms of governance including Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons, Ostrom’s socio-ecological systems and different types of decentralisation including community-based resource management. Examples will be drawn from various NR sectors, particularly fisheries and community-based forestry. B. REGULATORY APPROACHES This section will focus on regulatory approaches to NR governance. An introduction to rights-based approaches will lead to an examination of participation and representation of marginalised groups (e.g. indigenous groups and gender) in NR governance. The strengths and weaknesses of international conventions and environmental policies will be analysed drawing on examples such as the EU Water Framework Directive, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. C. MARKET-BASED APPROACHES In contrast with the previous section, this section will focus on market-based mechanisms for natural resource governance including corporate social responsibility, value chain approaches and certification schemes, and payments for environmental services (PES). These will be illustrated through discussion of carbon credits, watershed payments, forest and marine certification schemes and corporate social responsibility amongst others. The section will highlight the opportunities for and limitations of market-based approaches in different contexts and for different stakeholders. D. HYBRID APPROACHES The final section will review the trend towards mixed public-private NR governance models illustrated by international trade negotiations such as the FLEGT negotiations on legal timber and the WTO tuna case. Returning to the cross-cutting issue of scale, the challenges of nesting (and monitoring/enforcing) local, national and global priorities will be discussed in relation to mixed ownership models of forests and water resources in the UK and national REDD+ programmes. The module will end with a review of the pros and cons of different NR governance approaches and how they interact to promote sustainable development in different contexts. Indicative ENVS6027 Schedule - Week 1:Introductory Principles: Session 1: Defining Policy and Governance Session 2: Market and Regulatory Approaches Week 2:Introductory Principles: Session 1: Issues of Scale Session 2: Policy brief launch Additional: Reading group 1: overarching principles Week 3: Regulatory Approaches: Session 1:Policy brief: mapping exercise Session 2: Rights approaches (1 hour) Introduction to international conventions (1 hour) Week 4: Regulatory Approaches: Session 1: CBD and CITES Session 2: Community Based Resource Management Additional: Reading group 2: regulatory approaches Week 5: Regulatory Approaches: Session 1: International water governance Session 2: Policy conflicts (Case study: Water Framework Directive and Flood defence) Week 6: Regulatory Approaches: Session 1: Protected area governance Session 2: Role-play workshop – stakeholders involved at Winnall Moors Additional: Field trip 1: Winnall Moors Nature Reserve Week 7: Market Approaches: Session 1: Introduction to certification schemes Session 2: Introduction to PES schemes Week 8: Market Approaches: Session 1: PES for Biodiversity Session 2: PES in watersheds Additional: Reading group 3: market approaches Week 9: Market Approaches: Session 1: Case study: Water Company drought policy Session 2: Group presentations Week 10: Hybrid Approaches: Session 1: FLEGT timber/WTO tuna case Session 2: Multi-level governance systems Additional :Field trip 2: South Downs Week 11: Hybrid Approaches: Session 1:National REDD+ programmes Session 2: Feedback and exam briefing

Special Features

A fieldtrip to a local Nature Reserve and / or National Park. For students with specials needs, an individual assessment with be made and appropriate arrangements made to ensure they are enabled to benefit from the exercise or an equivalent experience.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • The module will be delivered by lecture, workshop and seminar sessions. The sessions will be delivered by the module co-ordinators plus occasional guest speakers. Students are required to supplement the material presented during the lectures with their own notes and reading of relevant literature. • Directed reading supported by reading groups on key topics • Field trips – at least one field trip will be undertaken to a local case study illustrating environmental policy and governance challenges. • Individual and group assignments, private study. Learning activities include: • Attendance at and participation in lectures, workshops and seminars. • Role play to understand the constraints faced by different decision-makers. • Group-based research and presentations. • Self-directed learning (researching and reading) oriented towards preparation of module assignments. Feedback and student support during module study (formative assessment). Feedback will be an on going process throughout the module. Lecture sessions will incorporate and conclude with class questions regarding the content. Students will be provided with regular verbal feedback for all un-assessed class workshop sessions, comprising generic comments and analysis from both the module coordinator and student peers. This feedback will be given during and immediately after completion of the sessions. Detailed written feedback will be given for each of the assessed exercises within four working weeks of completion. This feedback will summarise the work and provide constructive criticism of where the work is effective and where there is scope for developing content, structure, delivery and use of reference material.

Completion of assessment task57
Wider reading or practice20
External visits4
Preparation for scheduled sessions22
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

On-line resources. Students will require access to IT facilities and the internet.

Lovell, C., A. Mandondo, and P. Moriarty. (2002). The question of scale in integrated natural resource management.. Conservation Ecology. ,5 , pp. 25.

Sikor, T. (2008). Public and Private in Natural Resource Governance: A False Dichotomy?. 

Hardin, G. (1968). Tragedy of the commons. Science. ,162 , pp. 1243-1248.

Berkes, F. et al. (2006). Globalization, Roving Bandits, and Marine Resources. Science. ,311 , pp. 1157-8.

Wescoat, J.L. and White, G.F. (2003). Water for life. Water Management and Environmental Policy. 

Other. Access to transport for fieldtrips

Bodin, O. and Crona, B.I. (2009). The role of social networks in natural resource governance: What relational patterns make a difference?. Global Environmental Change. ,19 , pp. 366-374.

Larson, A.M. and Soto, F. (2008). Decentralization of Natural Resource Governance Regimes. Annual Review of Environment and Resources. ,33 , pp. 213-239.

Teaching space, layout and equipment required. Lecture theatres with flexibility for tables/chairs to be re-organised for groupwork

Ostrom, E. (2009). A general framework for analyzing sustainability of social-ecological systems. Science. ,325 , pp. 419-422.

Ostrom, E. (1990). Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. 


Assessment Strategy

Referral Method: If students fail to pass the module, they will sit an open book exam set over 1 week. External repeat year is assessed by examination only.


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (120 minutes) 40%
Group presentation 20%
Policy brief 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Open Book Exam 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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