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Master in

Integrated planning for rural development and environmental management

Last edition: 1st part: 26 September 2016 – 9 June 2017 / 2nd part: September 2017 – June 2018 ··

Master in

Integrated planning for rural development and environmental management

General information on the Unit

Contact hours: 63 (39 lectures, 24 practicals)
Personal work hours: 112
Character: Compulsory
Venue: Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza
-  Developed during the first academic year of the Master in the first semester, a first part, corresponding to the topics of landscape dynamics and natural system production, is programmed in mid-semester and a second part, corresponding to the topics of agricultural systems production, is programmed at the end of the semester.
-  The assessment of this Unit consists in the global assessment of exercises (1) and (2), the assessment of a written exercise on the topic "Forestry systems" and a written exam corresponding to the second part, carried out at the beginning of the second semester.
Requisites and permanence
There are no previous requisites
Learning methods
Combination of theoretical and practical classes, technical visit, and study and work in groups.
Lecturers may deliver the topics in Spanish or in English. In the second case, simultaneous interpretation into Spanish is provided. The documents supplied by the lecturers may also be written in Spanish or in English.


Presentation of the Unit and context within the syllabus

This Unit consists of three parts. The first one discusses the causes and consequences of territory heterogeneity and the interaction between spatial patterns and ecological processes, introducing quantitative methods used in the analysis of rural landscape dynamics. The second part focuses on the components and processes of natural systems and agricultural production, highlighting the different management systems and the analysis of their sustainability. The third part studies biodiversity and the conservation of species and areas providing guidelines for the selection of protected areas, for the allocation of land uses and for management.



Specific competences

  • ­SC2 Identifying the physical, landscape and biological diversity of an area, understanding the production processes, both of the natural systems and the agricultural production, and estimating their sustainability. [focusing on physical and biological diversity]
  • ­SC4 Characterizing and assessing the different sub-systems (physical, economic and social) and elements interacting in rural areas, and diagnosing their potentials and limitations. [focusing on the physical sub-system]

General competences

  • ­ GC1 Integrating scientific and technical knowledge and applying them discerningly.
  • ­GC3 Analyzing results or strategies and elaborating conclusions which contribute to clarify the problems and to find possible solutions.
  • ­ GC5 Learning and working autonomously, responding to unforeseen situations and re-aiming a strategy if necessary.
  • ­ GC6 Team-working and promoting exchange and collaboration attitudes with other students, researchers and professionals.


Learning outcomes

The student, at the end of the learning of this Unit:

  • Understands the theory and principles underpinning landscape dynamics, and knows how the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of the land affects the ecological processes, how the interaction and exchange between heterogeneous spaces takes place, and how heterogeneity is preserved through management.
  • Can apply concepts, methods and techniques from the field of landscape ecology to particular planning projects in rural areas.
  • Knows the components and processes in natural systems, and has deeper insights, by means of case studies, into the strategies and methodologies used for forest and plant cover restoration, and soil recovery.
  • Has knowledge of different agricultural systems, their utilization of resources, the environmental consequences of crop and livestock production, and the principles governing sustainable production.
  • -  Is able to carry out a diagnosis with regards to the level of sustainability of agricultural systems, to propose food production and transformation alternatives aimed at improving the environmental conditions and the quality of life in rural systems.
  • Knows how to assess the biodiversity existing in a particular area, and is acquainted with the principles underpinning the selection of areas for biodiversity conservation.
  • Understands the ecological bases for the design of different types of natural protected areas, the fundamentals of land use planning and the associated management strategies.


  • Landscape dynamics
    • Landscape ecology for planning
    • Practical work:
      • Quantifying landscape patterns
      • Designing a corridor network linking protected areas in the metropolitan region of Barcelona
    • Case study: Naturalization of mining disturbed areas
  • Components and processes of natural and agricultural production systems: biodiversity, productivity, water and nutrient cycles, systems recovery
    • Natural production systems
      • Forest systems
      • Case study: Restoration of plant cover in the Spanish semi-arid environment
    • Agricultural production systems
      • Crop production systems
      • Animal production systems
      • Case study: Integrated pest management in sustainable agriculture
      • Field visit: agricultural and animal production systems
  • Conservation of species and protection of areas
  • Biodiversity and selection of priority areas for conservation
  • Bases for the management of protected areas


Learning activities

Learning activity 1: Lectures combined with case studies
ECTS: 5.8
Hours: 144
Percentage of contact: 27%

Learning activity 2: Solving of exercises and problems, carrying out:
(1) calculation of landscape structure indexed from data in a map and the use of Excel software. Students must calculate the number of different structures, their size and their heterogeneity, deducing subsequently landscape composition and its diversity. Students work in pairs.
(2) design of a corridor network linking protected areas. Students work in groups designing one network each group. Afterwards they discuss altogether the results of each group, analyzing the criteria considered and assessing the different options to maintain connectivity.
(3) calculation of biomass production in the plots of Pinus sylvestris and Pinus nigra sampled during the field practicals of Unit 2, and plotting of a production table for Pinus sylvestris from growth curves, the self-clearing function and the production analysis of the species. The students do the exercises divided into groups and share the information on the methodologies used and the results obtained.
ECTS: 0.8
Hours: 20
Percentage of contact: 70%

Learning activity 3: Group work, consisting in detecting the most suitable animal production system for the area of study for the planning project of Unit 8, identifying through a SWOT analysis the advantages and disadvantages of each system and applying the "experts meeting" methodology, in which the times for analysis and decision-making have been previously established.
ECTS: 0.04
Hours: 1
Percentage of contact: 100%

Learning activity 4: Cooperative learning, where, divided into groups, each student receives a scientific publication on animal production systems, every group having the same publications. Each student summarizes the content of the publication for the rest of the group in a limited pre-established time. Afterwards, a question period is established to ask questions between the groups on the publication contents in order to verify that all students have understood the same information.
ECTS: 0.16
Hours: 4
Percentage of contact: 75%

Learning activity 5: Technical visit to agricultural and livestock farms to illustrate the application of different production systems.
ECTS: 0.2
Hours: 6
Percentage of contact: 100%


Assessment methods

Assessment system 1: Written exams, composed by questions provided by the different lecturers of the Unit. The questions are concrete and require a short development. The exam assesses the content of lectures and the understanding of the processes observed during the technical visit, and the methodology and contents dealt with in the group work and cooperative learning.
In the written exams, the questions are marked according to the technical and conceptual precision of the answer, and to the reasoning approach.
Weighting: 70% of the final score of the Unit

Assessment system 2: Global assessment of the solving of exercises (1) and (2) by the tutoring lecturer. Understanding of the methodology and quality of the results will be assessed. In exercise (1) the score is the same for each member of the pair and in exercise (2) it is the same for all members of the group.
Weighting: 10% of the final score of the Unit

Assessment system 3: Assessment of the subject "Natural production systems: forestry systems" based on a written document that each student shall elaborate individually. In the document, from the data of a case study, the student shall answer various questions and do an exercise similar to exercise 3, carried out with the lecturer.
Weighting: 20% of the final score of the Unit



Ramón ALBAJES, Univ. Lleida (Spain)
Carlos CANTERO, Univ. Lleida (Spain)
Adrián ESCUDERO, Univ. Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid (Spain)
Rosario FANLO, Univ. Lleida (Spain)
José Manuel NICOLAU, Univ. Zaragoza, Huesca (Spain)
Enrique PLAYÁN, CSIC-EEAD, Zaragoza (Spain)
Ferràn RODÀ, Univ. Autónoma Barcelona (Spain)
Santiago SABATÈ, Univ. Barcelona (Spain)
Paquita SANTIVERI, Univ. Lleida (Spain)
Ramón VALLEJO, CEAM, Valencia (Spain)