Nature Park Management I - BEN120


Learn about plants, animals, ecology and skills needed to work in zoos, wildlife parks, wilderness areas, land conservation etc. 
Develop foundation skills and knowledge in the management of practical aspects of nature parks  including plant identification, assessment of degraded sites, nature park design, erosion control, weed control and tree surgery. 
These are areas of study important to nature park management but rarely covered in other courses.


This course is designed for people who want to work in nature/national parks and reserves in technical positions. In this course you will learn about the ecology of national parks, their importance for species conservation, key maintenance issues and rehabilitation techniques.


There are 12 lessons in this module as follows:

1. Introduction to Nature Parks

  • Role of nature parks
  • National parks
  • Zoos and wildlife parks
  • Reserves
  • Role of community groups in nature parks
  • Using indigenous plants
  • Benefits of indigenous remnant vegetation
  • Naturalised plants
  • Plant identification: plant reviews

2. Basic Ecology

  • Ecology and its application
  • Constituents of an ecosystem: biotic and abiotic
  • Ecosystem function
  • Heterotrophic vs, autotrophic
  • Ecological concepts
  • Ecology relationships
  • Climatic zones
  • Climate: soil: vegetation interrelationships
  • Plant association
  • Living things
  • Classification of animals
  • Plant classification
  • Using keys
  • Botanical families for different genera: a framework for identifying plants

3. Soil Management in Nature Parks

  • Soil Management Overview
  • Earthworks in nature parks
  • Soil degradation
  • Erosion
  • Causes, types and control of erosion
  • Salinity
  • Sources of salinity
  • Control methods for soil salinity
  • Soil acidification, and causes
  • Compaction of soil
  • Chemical residues
  • Soil and plant growth
  • Naming the soil
  • Improving soils
  • Sampling soils
  • Nutrient availability and pH
  • Fertilizers and nutrient components
  • Terminology

4. Plant Maintenance

  • Plant maintenance in nature parks
  • Plant selection
  • Economics of planting
  • Ongoing costs
  • Longevity
  • Aesthetic criteria for plant selection
  • Natural gardening techniques
  • Using hardy, pest free plants
  • Planting for a succession
  • Equipment: a more sustainable and natural approach
  • Avoiding problem materials
  • Disposing of waste
  • Composting
  • Planting procedure
  • Staking plants
  • When to plant
  • Machinery for park maintenance: overview

5. Design of Nature Parks I

  • Nature park design
  • Landscaping procedure
  • Pre planning information
  • Landscape plans
  • Design procedure

6. Design of Nature Parks II

  • Designing animal enclosures
  • Cages and pens
  • Open range enclosures
  • Designing and siting animal enclosures
  • Specifications and contracts

7. Weed Management in Nature Parks

  • Characteristics of weeds
  • Weed control options
  • Chemical control
  • Biological control
  • Non chemical control
  • Plants which take over
  • Environmental weeds

8. Pest and Disease Management

  • Pest and disease control: chemical and non chemical
  • Using chemicals safely
  • Understanding plant pathology
  • How to inspect plants for suspected problems
  • Insect biology and classification
  • Laws related to chemical use
  • Types of poisons
  • Understanding toxicity
  • Review of main types of plant pests
  • Review of common fungal problems affecting plants

9. Culture of Indigenous Plants

  • Growing indigenous plants in nature park
  • Plant establishment: direct planting, direct seeding, natural regeneration
  • Planting design
  • Planting techniques: pocket planting, slope serration, wattling, planting arid sites, direct seeding, spray seeding

10. Tree Management in Nature Parks

  • The role of trees
  • Tree maintenance plan
  • Arboriculture (overview)
  • Safety for tree surgery
  • Tree surgery techniques

11. Turf Care in Nature Parks

  • Introduction
  • Choosing turf grasses
  • Feature lawns
  • Picnic areas
  • Areas for sport, gardens, parks
  • Establishing a new lawn
  • Review of turf varieties
  • Turf maintenance procedures
  • Topdressing

12. Rehabilitation Problems and Solutions

  • Land rehabilitation in nature parks
  • Site plan information needed
  • Site management plan
  • Soil problems on degraded sites
  • Dry areas, overcoming dry soils, managing sandy soils
  • What causes wet areas
  • Overcoming problems with wet areas
  • Factors affecting rehabilitation: debris, mass plantings, water, topsoil, exotic organisms



On completion of the course you should be able to do the following:

  • Explain the importance of the interrelationships between various components of a natural environment within an ecosystem.
  • Develop management strategies for soils within a natural ecosystem.
  • Develop management strategies for plant maintenance practices, in nature parks.
  • Design a nature park, or a section within a nature park.
  • Develop management strategies for the control of weed problems in a nature park.
  • Develop management strategies for the rehabilitation of degraded sites in a nature park.



Here are just some of the things you may be doing:

  • Differentiate between different categories or types of nature parks.
  • Determine thirty living components of a specific ecosystem, studied by you.
  • Determine ten non-living components of a specific ecosystem, studied by you.
  • Prepare a labelled diagram to illustrate the interrelationships between at least fifteen different components of an ecosystem.
  • Explain the possible impact of removing two different specified organisms from a specified ecosystem.
  • Explain the potential impact of adding non indigenous organisms, to a specified ecosystem.
  • Explain how different soil characteristics can impact upon an ecosystem.
  • Describe the physical characteristics of at least three different soils, which are of significant to the stability of their ecosystems.
  • Assess aspects of soil dynamics on a site, including: -Topography -Soil life -Susceptibility to degradation -Sunlight (canopy penetration).
  • Compare the likely implications of using three different types of fertilisers, including: 
  • Benefit to plants -Method of use -Environmental impact.
  • Explain the use of different soil conditioners including: -pH modifiers -Ameliorants -Organic matter.
  • Determine the plant maintenance requirements of a specific nature park visited and assessed by you.
  • Develop guidelines for the care of new plantations in a nature park visited by you.
  • Compare the suitability of three different types of grass cutting equipment, for mowing a specific park.
  • Compare the likely environmental impact of different types of pesticides used on a specific site.
  • Determine the significance to plant populations, of containment of different outputs, on a specified site, including: -water runoff -chemical spray drift -effluent -pollutants.
  • Prepare a plant collection of sixty plants.
  • Determine categories of landscape developments which are carried out in different types of nature parks, including: -Wildlife Reserves -Zoos -Sanctuaries -National Parks -Forest Reserves -Vegetation corridors.
  • Evaluate the designs of two different sections, of different nature parks, against given criteria.
  • Collect pre-planning information for the development of a site, within a nature park.
  • Prepare two concept plans for a nature park development, including: existing features -clear labeling -legend -scale -north indicator.
  • Compare features of two nature park concept plans.
  • Plan the construction of a landscape development within a nature park, including: -materials lists (types and quantities of materials); -plan of proposed landscape development; -list of manpower and equipment requirements; -a work schedule.
  • Estimate the cost of construction in accordance with a specified landscape plan.
  • Estimate the cost of maintaining a specified section of a park, for a three month period.
  • Explain the impact of weeds on two natural environments in the learners locality, using examples.
  • Prepare a weed collection, of twenty different weeds. 
  • Describe two different weed problems, in two different nature parks.
  • Explain five different weed seed dispersal mechanisms, for weed species collected.
  • Compare alternative control methods for a specified weed problem.
  • Select appropriate control methods for ten different specified weed problems.
  • Develop guidelines for weed control, in a nature park inspected by you.
  • Develop a management plan to reinstate indigenous flora on a specific site.
  • Explain the causes of three specified types of site degradation.
  • Describe five different techniques for controlling site degradation.
  • Describe five different techniques for repairing site degradation.
  • Describe degraded sites at two different natural areas, you inspect.
  • Prepare construction details for work to be undertaken in the rehabilitation of a degraded site you inspect.
  • Develop a management plan for a degraded site, in a natural area you visit.


Duration: 100 hrs



  • Ensure your skills are up to date, by pursuing further studies or attending professional development activities.
  • Keep up to date with what's happening in the field of  Nature Park Management. What are the most pressing issues and where is there likely to be more work?
  • Join a networking group to meet people who are working in the field.
  • Get some experience. Whether paid or unpaid, experience will always make your CV look more impressive and give you some practical knowledge to apply in your interview.


Learn to Preserve and Regenerate Natural Areas

As any environment degrades, the living plants and animals within them are faced with a depletion of resources; in effect, a different set of resources to live with. They must either adapt, or their populations change (or, in the extreme, disappear). Such changes in populations will in turn result in a further degradation and impact upon the stability of other aspects of the environment. In essence, everything is interlinked and interdependent.

If the influence of man is withdrawn from any environment, given time, nature will usually return to some sort of balance. The mix of species may vary from what existed originally, but the environment would stabilise.

The question therefore arises whether it is preferable for man to attempt to create or fabricate an environment, or alternatively allow a degraded landscape to rehabilitate itself (i.e. largely let nature do the job).

There are various concerns:

  • The conservation ethic - is it more ethical to let nature take its course, or to take control over nature? The traditional way of Western civilisation has been to take control but many today would consider it more ethical to work more with nature rather than in spite of it.
  • Aesthetics - some say we cannot let nature go uncontrolled because of aesthetic consequences. For others who see greater beauty in nature, it is more aesthetic to let nature take its own course. In essence, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
  • Practicalities - degradation may have reached a point where human interference become essential if for no other reason, for public welfare. It may be impractical to leave an eroded roadside to the forces of nature, as the result may be a serious accident.
  • Level of interference - some say that access/use of an area by people must be controlled (reduced or limited) to a carefully determined level, to ensure a recovery/rehabilitation occurs.
  • Cost - continued degradation may result in long-term costs through reduced productivity or usefulness of both the site concerned and other sites which the degradation could eventually effect.

Fabricated landscapes are attractive and will almost certainly continue to exist. They are however expensive to maintain. A more cost effective way is to work with nature, rather than against it; managing land to maintain or re-establish self-sustaining natural systems.

All living organisms require a minimum amount of space to maintain a stable population. As such, size is critical in any attempt to sustain or rehabilitate a natural landscape. If the area is not big enough, some of the animals or plants within that ecosystem will disappear in due course. 

An individual plant may only need a small area to survive but for generation after generation to survive, a greater area must be populated so that there are always other plants which can repopulate when one plant dies through old age, or from damage by animals, fire or some other natural event.

It is unlikely that you can develop a truly natural environment in any small area. It may be an environment fabricated to appear natural; but it won't really be natural. 


Natural regeneration of vegetation is often used in situations where there is a lack of resources or where the area is too large to undertake organised projects or where access with machinery is difficult such as also along fence lines, the edges adjoining natural stands of vegetation or woodlands, around sink holes, in wetlands, along the banks of streams and other water courses, on steep slopes and also in shallow stony or rocky soil. 

Natural regeneration can be a viable option given the right circumstances:

  • Suitable climatic conditions (rainfall at the right time for example).
  • Soil conditions receptive to the seed germination i.e. moist and weed free.
  • A receptive seed bed (moist soil, may need some preparation such as ripping or scalping) and suitable soil nutrients.
  • Low competition from weeds and other plants.
  • A population of pollinators
  • A natural source of healthy seeds
  • In order for an area to revegetate naturally it has to have access to a source of viable seeds; these may be resident in the soil or may be transported by wind, water or animal movement to the revegetation site. To facilitate this, the targeted area should have some nearby stands of existing vegetation (as undisturbed as possible) from which seeds are naturally dispersed and that has a reasonable population of parent material to allow for genetic diversity. 

Advantages of natural revegetation

  • Not labour intensive
  • Indigenous species grown from local seed have adapted to that area and are therefore more likely to grow into healthy plants that will cope with local conditions.   
  • It is a very viable way to revegetate hard to access area or steep or rocky sloping land. 

Disadvantages of natural revegetation

  • It is unpredictable - plants may develop in patches or groups and may take years to develop. 
  • It is very long term - not all plants will regenerate every year, some (especially many eucalypts) require ideal climatic conditions to produce fruit and viable seed. Others (such as Banksia, Protea) need fire to create ideal conditions in which to disperse their seeds. Fire creates nutrient rich seed beds as well as lowering weed competition. Fire may not be a viable option in a regeneration project and therefore the conditions that are normally created by fire may need to be mimicked (e.g. smoke water but the more intervention there is the less it becomes a natural revegetation project.  
  • The area may need to be fenced off to protect it from grazing, which increases costs.
  • Areas may need some form of cultivation to encourage seed germination.
  • Like any revegetation program, natural revegetation will require some follow-up weeding to ensure desirable plants are not outgrown.


Nature parks and reserves make up a significant amount of land in and around most major cities. They are important areas that preserve the natural flora and fauna of local areas and are intended to save them from development. However, nature parks are designated areas for members of the public to visit and make the most of nature. They therefore need to be managed to preserve them for future generations to enjoy. This course helps students to develop an appreciation of strategies and designs that can be implemented to maintain and enhance nature parks.
This course will be of interest to people working, or aspiring to work in:

  • National parks and nature reserves
  • Botanical parks and gardens  
  • Land management
  • Ecotourism

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