M.FES.721: Ecological functions of wildlife: Implications for conservation and management

Learning outcome

Animals fulfill various ecological roles within ecosystems. For example, many vertebrate species act as ‘mobile links’ and transport genetic material or organic matter across large spatial extends. Similarly, the presence or absence of large carnivores, or the abundance of large herbivores in an ecosystem can substantially impact its properties.
While the reciprocal relationships between animals and the environment have long been recognized in ecology, we are only now realizing how important anthropogenic activities are for the functions that animals have in ecosystems.
The aim of the course is to provide students with an overview of the ecological functions of vertebrate animals and why considering human influences on vertebrate species can be crucial for ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation. In addition, the course will also provide students with a basic understanding on how to investigate these functions and their consequences for ecosystem functions and services


  • Ecological functions of wildlife: implications for conservation and management (Lecture, Seminar, 4 WLH)


  • Oral Presentation (approx. 20 minutes)
  • Prerequisites: Written exam (30 minutes). The written exam will take place in the first half of the semester.
  • Examination requirements: To successfully complete the course, students have to demonstrate a general understanding of
    1. functions fulfilled by vertebrates within ecosystems;
    2. human impacts on these ecosystem functions;
    3. how to analyze animal-ecosystem relationships;
    4. the implications of animal-ecosystem relationships for management and conservation

Further details

  • Work load: 180 h (56/124 h, attendance / self-study)
  • Admission requirements: None
  • Recommended previous knowledge: None
  • Language: English
  • Person responsible for module: Prof. Dr. Niko Balkenhol
  • Course frequency: Each winter semester
  • Duration: One semester
  • Number of repeat examinations permitted: Twice
  • Recommended Semester: 1st semester
  • Maximum number of students: 40