Learn to manage nature reserves, wilderness areas and nature parks, botanical parks. Study land care practices and nature park design, to erosion control, weed control and tree surgery.

Course Code: BEN120
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Develop skills to undertake the management of practical aspects of nature parks.

A nature park is any area that aims to preserve a natural environment or natural plant or animal life. It includes the following:

  • gazetted wilderness areas such as a national park
  • wildlife reserves
  • forest reserves
  • zoos and wildlife parks
  • botanical reserves
  • council parks
  • recreation reserves


National Parks

National parks are relatively large areas of land set aside by government designation. In most cases, the land is relatively undeveloped and has significant natural landscape value.

The main role of national parks is to preserve the natural features of the landscape, including topography, flora and fauna. National parks are also important for their roles in education and recreation.

National parks are usually managed by state, shire or territory government bodies. Rangers are employed to look after the park. Their role is to protect the flora and fauna in the park and to ensure visitors safely enjoy the features of the park without significantly impacting on the environment.

Public access is usually limited to areas that are specifically designed and managed to cope with visitors. Within these area there may be boardwalks, scenic lookout platforms, and natural features of interest (e.g. waterfalls, valleys, or a unique geological or historical feature). Access within the park may be via walking trails, roads, car parks, picnic areas and campgrounds.


Zoos and Wildlife Parks

Zoos and wildlife parks and enclosed areas where animal species are cared for and housed for the purpose of conservation, education and research. These may be privately owned, managed by a private conservation trust, or managed by the government. In about 1500 BC Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt decided to build a zoo, and about 500 years later the Chinese emperor Wen Wang founded the Garden of Intelligence. Many small zoos were set up between 1,000 and 400 BC by leader from Africa, India, and China to display power and wealth. The ancient Greeks established public zoos to study animal and plant life. Near the end of the 1,400's, global exploration brought Europeans to the New World and explorers brought back with them exotic species to be housed in zoos.

The above shows how many different reasons there are for establishing a zoo. Today conservation, research and education are the primary reasons for developing and maintaining wildlife parks (wildlife parks focus on these goals whereas some zoos still have animals on display purely for interest, education, and profit). Being able to house different species on one given park provides the ability to study these creatures up close and give visitors the opportunity to experience some interaction with species in order to appreciate their fragility and importance in the grander scale of things. These establishments often have animal hospitals, trained vets, animal carers, and researchers who are dedicated to preserving species and housing them in best possible environments whilst educating the public on their importance. A lot of the parks provide volunteering opportunities, educational programs for school and other visitors, and research opportunities.



These are usually smaller areas of land, either owned and managed privately or managed by council, shire or state departments. Reserves are set aside for many different reasons:

  • They may have significant natural features, such as remnant vegetation or wetlands.
  • They may be important for cultural or historic reasons; for example, the site may contain relics of previous inhabitants.
  • They may offer opportunities for passive and active recreation, such as bush walking, nature studies, bird watching, camping, boating, orienteering.
  • Its purpose may be to rehabilitate a degraded site, such as a disused quarry or landfill.
  • They offer people special opportunities to study or learn about nature or simply to enjoy it.

Most reserves are open to the public, but not always. Some are managed by private trusts or landholders, and access is restricted for privacy reasons. Some are manage by local councils or botanical gardens. Environmentally-sensitive areas may also be restricted to protect threatened species or fragile land forms.

Lesson Structure

There are 12 lessons in this course:

  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 sustaainable 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


  • Investigate the scope and role of nature parks and explain the importance of indigenous plants in nature parks.
  • 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 pest and disease control in nature parks.
  • Investigate the culture of indigenous plants as a useful resource for nature parks.
  • Discuss techniques used for tree maintenance including pruning and tree surgery, with respect to nature parks.
  • Develop management strategies for turf maintenance in nature parks.
  • Develop management strategies for the rehabilitation of degraded sites in a nature park.

How the Landscape can affect Wildlife

Where large areas of indigenous vegetation have been cleared for housing, agriculture, industry, and other uses, they hence greatly reduce habitat left for native wildlife. Many of these native vegetation fragments are often small and isolated from one another by barriers such as open pasture, housing, roads, and water bodies (e.g. dams). These are sometimes known as "island" habitats. The size of an island habitat greatly determines the likely success or otherwise of the species that reside there. Genetic pools are restricted within a small habitat that can lead to problems of diversity within a species. Larger animals, especially predators are known to be severely impacted upon when habitats shrink.

Predators play a major role in the overall health of an ecological system. They tend to prey upon sick and weak animals thereby enforcing evolutionary principles of survival of the fittest. This results in healthy populations among the creatures that they do prey upon. Wildlife corridors when properly maintained enable movement for animals between habitats. This means that the habitat is not isolated and the problems talked of earlier are not as prevalent.

Wildlife constantly moves:
Looking for food; new sources; seasonal availability
  •  Looking for shelter/protection
  •  Searching for mates
  •  Dispersal of young to new ranges
In island habitats there may be no adjacent habitat to forage in, or to disperse along.

Island communities
  • Are vulnerable to catastrophic events, such as pests, diseases, clearing, bushfires, and to gradual changes, such as inbreeding or climatic variation.
  • May not provide all the resources a species require (e.g. food, water, shelter/protection and breeding).

Links between such isolated communities can:

  • Allow migration to replenish a declining wildlife population (increasing numbers giving better chance for some to survive and reduce inbreeding).
  • Allow re-colonisation where a species may have become locally extinct (extend the local range).
Other Benefits
There are not only benefits for indigenous vegetation and wildlife, but also considerable benefits to local land owners. Creating such corridors can also:
  • Help reduce erosion (e.g. in gullies, stream banks, on exposed ridges).
  • Help reduce salinity problems
  • Reduce nutrient runoff into streams.
  • Provide windbreaks or shelter belts for stock and crops; this greatly improves yields due to reduced heat or cold stress of stock and lessens wind damage to plants (e.g. young seedlings, flowers on fruiting plants).
  • Increase birth rates of stock (up to 50% increases recorded in lambing rates in some areas.
  • Provide timber and firewood.
  • Stream-line corridors help improve water quality, help mitigate floods, reduce erosion and improve recreational fishing.
Situating Corridors
They may exist anywhere between habitat islands of any size, even as little as a few old remnant trees that may provide valuable hollows, or linking smaller patches to perhaps a larger state forest.

Remnant wetland environments (e.g. marshes, swamps, lakes) can also be linked with other vegetation corridors, providing improved access for wildlife to important water sources.

They are best designed where possible to follow natural contours (e.g. rivers, ridges). They might incorporate other plantings (e.g. windbreaks, timber lots).

Types of Corridors
1. Natural - follow natural contours (e.g. ridges, streams, gullies).
2. Remnant - along roadsides, railway reserves, disused stock routes and often follow straight lines.
3. Planted - such things as farm shelter breaks and windbreaks they are generally created for other purposes than creating wildlife habitat, but can serve a dual purpose.

Design Considerations
Preserve or restore natural corridors (e.g. gully lines, stream banks). Stream sides are high value areas for wildlife. Limit stock access to riverbanks to prevent erosion and allow for regeneration of riverside vegetation.

Wherever possible build onto or restore existing corridors as they will have existing populations of local flora and fauna, increasing the rate of species spread.

The wider the corridor the better (e.g. at least 30 - 100 m wide) - see section on ‘edge effects’.

Corridors are more effective when they link up with large larger habitats with few or no gaps (e.g. roads cutting through).

Use local (indigenous) plants. These are adapted to local conditions (e.g. soil, climate, fire regimes), and fauna are adapted to them. This also preserves the biodiversity of local flora. They generally have low establishment costs in comparison to introduced species. They have minimal weed potential.

Incorporate all forms of vegetation (e.g. shrubs, grasses, rushes, groundcovers, climbers), not just trees. For example grassy forests may have four different large tree species and between 70 and 100 under storey species. This means that the under storey represents over 90% of the biodiversity of the vegetation in this ecosystem.

A network of corridors is more effective than single links: it increases opportunities for migrations; it reduces risk of links being broken (e.g. fires, subdivision and subsequent clearing of some blocks).

Fencing to restrict grazing of corridor vegetation by domestic stock very important, but be careful not to restrict movement of wildlife.

Consider habitat (e.g. rocks, hollow logs, leaf litter) for animals that may be slow in migrating (e.g. small ground dwellers such as rodents, lizards and snakes). Consider the provision of artificial nest boxes, or placement of hollow logs within new plantings.

Co-operative action between local landowners may be necessary. Such co-operative efforts can make the best use of available resources, and allow for the most effective links between remnant patches.

Agro-forestry, using suitable local timbers, can be used to produce a marketable crop, while temporarily (at least 30 years, and often much more for most tree crops) linking remnant vegetation patches, and also to act as a buffer around larger remnant vegetation patches.

Edge Effects
'Edge effect' is a term used to describe what occurs with regard to vegetation and wildlife when one type of vegetation shares a border with another. They may occur naturally (e.g. forest grading into woodland, or stream side vegetation to drier nearby slopes, and burnt and un-burnt areas); or they can be man-made, such as pasture abutting forest, or roads through forest. Some edge effects can be positive in terms of native flora and fauna, but most tend to have negative effects. Edge effects are most likely to have an influence on narrow strips or small remnant areas. In terms of corridor plantings the wider the corridor the less impact of "edge effects".


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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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Bob James (Horticulturist)

Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry.
He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Maste

Dr Robert Browne

Zoologist, Environmental Scientist and Sustainability, science based consultancy with biotechnology corporations. Work focused on conservation and sustainability.
Robert has published work in the fields of nutrition, pathology, larval growth and develop

Diana Cole

Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Permaculture Design Certificate, B.A. (Hons)-Geography, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development
Diana has been an enthusiastic volunteer with community garden and land conservation projects sinc

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