Available in 2018

Course handbook


Sustainability and Ecosystem Health offers a systematic examination of an emergent paradigm in environmental management, ecosystem health and resilience thinking. It explores these concepts via the theoretical perspectives and methodologies of complexity and transdisciplinarity. The ecosystem health paradigm examines environmental issues using key indicators of system health such as integrity, resilience, vigour, diversity, stability and adaptability. Major environmental issues are analysed from a complex adaptive systems perspective with humans and their institutions seen as integral parts of socio-ecological systems, i.e. a 'humans in the ecosystem' approach. The Hunter Valley of New South Wales, Australia provides a rich setting for case studies at the regional level. Other case studies are explored, including human induced climate change and global warming at the biosphere scale. Links between complex adaptive socio-ecological systems at varied scales are also explored. All case studies are used to highlight interdependencies and opportunities for diagnosing, maintaining or restoring ecosystem and human health and resilience.

Availability2018 Course Timetables

WebLearn GradSchool

  • Trimester 2 - 2018

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will be able to:

1. Explain the relationship between resilience, transdisciplinarity, ecosystem health and ultimately, sustainability

2. Critically evaluate key components of ecosystem health and resilience theory

3. Use ecosystem health and resilience theory to interpret, understand and analyse real world case studies in complex adaptive systems


Theme 1: Basic Concepts

  • Ecosystem health: An indicator of sustainability
  • Resilience: and indicator of sustainability

Theme 2: Sustainability and Ecosystem Health within Complex Adaptive Systems

  • Ecological and social systems as linked complex adaptive systems
  • Feedback, thresholds and flip points
  • Panarchy and scale
  • Resilience, adaptability and vulnerability
  • Sustainability indicators: a systems approach

Theme 3: Case Study in Sustainability, Ecosystem Health and Transformation

  • Social learning, adaptive management and governance for ecosystem health and sustainability
  • The Hunter region of NSW, Australia

Theme 4: Creating Sustainable Futures

  • Individual case studies as identified by students

Assessment items

Presentation: Audio/visual tutorial presentation and facilitation of discussion board

Essay: Essay

Report: Applied major report

Contact hours

WebLearn GradSchool

Self-Directed Learning

Self-Directed 10 hour(s) per Week for Full Term