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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: 82 (31 lectures, 51 practicals)
Personal work hours: 1437
Character: Compulsory
Venue: Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza
- Developed during the first academic year of the Master during the second semester.
- The assessment of this Unit is carried out through a written exam at the end of the second semester, and the marking of the practical work (1) and the group work (1) and (2).
Requisites and permanence
There are no previous requisites
Learning methods
Combination of theoretical and practical sessions, and individual and group study and work.
Lecturers may deliver the course 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 presents the methodologies used in planning projects for the understanding of complex systems and the forecasting of their evolution over time. Likewise the methodologies used for the election of land use alternatives and their impact assessment are discussed. The usefulness of some of these methodologies is also examined, especially modelling as a tool for the design of spatial planning policies and as a support in the definition of management strategies.


Specific competences

  • ­ SC5 Applying principles, methods and techniques for the spatial and socio-economic analysis of a territory, and foreseeing the most probable changes throughout time.
  • ­ SC6 Planning options for the conservation and management of the physical environment, the improvement of agricultural production and the socio-economic dynamization of rural areas, which guarantee their system’s sustainability.
  • ­ SC7 Understanding and valuing the usefulness of applying different methodologies and tools to the design of environmental and development policies, to the improvement of the management and to the integrated planning of a territory.
  • ­ SC9 Allocating land uses and assessing their possible impact on the territory.
  • ­ SC10 Proposing management and development alternatives which may provide solutions to the problems of rural areas, as well as social, environmental and/or economic benefits, considering the viability of their implementation.

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.
  • ­ GC6 Team-working and promoting exchange and collaboration attitudes with other students, researchers and professionals.
  • ­ CG7 Communicating reasoning and conclusions both to a general audience and to a specialized public.


Learning outcomes

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

  • Is able to integrate and process the existing information on a study area, can classify the territory according to its carrying capacity, and knows how to allocate land uses establishing the possible alternatives and assessing their impacts.
  • Knows the methodology for environmental impact assessment and how to apply it for the evaluation of projects.
  • Considers systems analysis as a tool for planning and environmental management because of its capacity to increase the understanding of a complex system, and is able to apply systems dynamics to simulate system changes over time.
  • Assesses the value of scenarios for developing action plans and measures that are better adapted to the likely evolution of an area, and has practical experience in the methods and techniques used in scenario analysis.
  • Knows the principles of system dynamics modelling and is familiar with the use of programmes like Stella and PCRaster as tools for building spatial-temporal models enabling a better understanding of environmental processes as well as the changes and impacts that they bring about.
  • Understands the possibilities and limitations of integrated spatial models and decision support systems, and appreciates the use of some of these tools in the design of spatial planning policies and as support for operational and management strategies.



  • Land use allocation and environmental impact analysis
  • Qualitative modelling, scenarios and system dynamics modelling
    • From system thinking to system modelling
    • Developing scenarios in an integrated spatial context
    • Practical modelling: developing system dynamic models
  • Decision support systems and integrated spatial modelling
    • Integrated spatial modelling of socio-environmental systems
    • Case study: A DSS for the assessment of vulnerability to climate change and dynamic land use modelling in Europe
    • Case study: socioeconomic spatial modelling. Xplorah – a decision support system for Puerto Rico island


Learning activities

Learning activity 1: Lectures
ECTS: 6.5
Hours: 164
Percentage of contact: 19%

Learning activity 2: Solving of exercises and problems, carrying out:
- causal diagrams from texts and incomplete diagrams prepared by the lecturer.
- flow diagrams for problems and environmental systems using Forrester's symbology as a simulation instrument and using texts and diagrams prepared by the lecturer.
Students work individually and present and discuss the results altogether.
ECTS: 0.1
Hours: 3
Percentage of contact: 100%

Learning activity 3: Practical work on:
- (1) usage of the software Stella to create a dynamic model for an urban population system.
- (2) running and evaluation of an already existing model for ecosystem dynamics.
- (3) creation of hydrological dynamic models and land use analysis dynamic models, including the import of GIS maps and the creation of connections with other GIS systems.
- (4) policy evaluation through the usage of Xplorah in three different socio-environmental situations, assessing through scenario testing the result of the action measures proposed.
Students carry out the practicals working in pairs.
ECTS: 0.9
Hours: 22 [(1): 8, (2): 2, (3): 4, (4): 8]
Percentage of contact: 82% [(1): 50%, (2)-(4): 100%]

Learning activity 4: Work in groups on:
- (1) exploring external developments in a specific area, assessing the impact and uncertainty degree of such developments, creating scenarios, visualizing the implementation of different possible alternatives and proposing strategies. Students work in groups, organizing sessions to synthesize and share information with the rest of the groups and delivering a final presentation of the results.
- (2) localizing the uses or activities to be implemented in a territory, considering the capacity of the areas to host the activity and the lowest possible impact as a consequence of the implementation, finally classifying the territory according to its suitability for the development of the activity. The analysis of the capacity of the territory and the impact is performed using a GIS system, the impact analysis is also carried out based on the knowledge of the activity characteristics and of the environmental aspects of the host area. Students work in groups, doing presentations of the advancements of each group and a final presentation of the results. Finally each student prepares a written document describing the process involved and justifying the criteria adopted.
- (3) applying the methodology used in the definition of preventive, corrective, curative and compensatory measures for environmental impacts in the programme for environmental monitoring of a road infrastructure crossing a protected area. Each group has available the environmental inventory, the thematic maps, the project description and the corresponding environmental impact declaration Every group presents their results, which are jointly discussed.
ECTS: 1.5
Hours: 36 [(1): 8, (2) 24, (3): 4]
Percentage of contact: 93% [(1): 100%; (2): 90%, (3): 100%]


Assessment method

Assessment system 1: Written exams, composed by questions provided by the different lecturers of the Unit, except for the topic of scenarios, which is not evaluated in a written exam. The questions are concrete and require a short development. The exam assesses the content of lectures and the understanding of the exercises and the practicals, which are not assessed separately, through the realization of exercises similar to the ones done in the practical sessions.
In the written exams, the questions are marked according to the technical and conceptual precision of the answer, and to the reasoning approach, and the exercises, according to the understanding of the methodology and the validity of the results.
Weighting: 80.5% of the final score of the Unit

Assessment system 2: Global assessment of the results of the practical work (1) by the tutoring lecturers. Understanding of the methodology applied and the pertinence of the results will be assessed. The score will be the same for both components of each pair.
Weighting: 3.5% of the final score of the Unit

Assessment system 3: Global assessment of the results of the group work (1) and (2) by the tutoring lecturers. Understanding of the methodology applied, the validity of the results obtained by the group and the quality of the reasoning in the document prepared by each student will be assessed.
Weighting: 16% of the final score of the Unit [(1): 5%, (2): 11%]



Juan BELLOT, Univ. Alicante (Spain)
Lourdes CABELLO, ESTEYCO, Madrid (Spain)
María Ángeles CEÑAL, DENDROS S.L., Madrid (Spain)
Guy ENGELEN, VITO NV – Flemish Institute for Technological Research, Mol (Belgium)
Germán GLARÍA, Univ. Politécnica Madrid (Spain)
Willem VAN DEURSEN, PCRASTER, Rotterdam (The Netherlands)
Michael Christian VAN LIESHOUT, PANTOPICON, Antwerp (Belgium)
Julio C. VERDEJO, Univ. Puerto Rico, San Juan (Puerto Rico)