Learn to grow trees in a way that resurrects degraded land

This course covers the fundamentals you require to advance or start your career in this field.

The significance of caring for the environment has been receiving more and more attention in recent times as we come to understand the importance of limited resources and the effects of human activities on the environment. The desertification, erosion and general degradation of once fertile lands is prompting us to investigate why and how these processes have occurred. It has also lead to research into how we can reverse and stop further damage to our environment.

Natural forests are among the most stable and productive ecosystems. We need to plant and conserve forests for their conservation value, to help maintain healthy air, soil and water and for their potential to provide food, forage, fuel, timber and even medicines.

This course is designed for people working or wanting to work with environmental rehabilitation and contaminated sites recovery. It develops an understanding of environmental systems and the rehabilitation of degraded landscapes. You will learn about seed collection, storage and germination, propagation, plant selection, establishment techniques, and controlling pest and disease after planting.

Land Management Using Trees

There are many different ways that degraded land can be improved; but the sheer size of trees compared with smaller plants; will often make them the best candidates to have the greatest impact on a site.

If you choose the right tree for a site, it can grow faster, deeper, wider and taller; and for longer than most other options; and it can improve not only soil conditions, but every other aspect of the site from animal populations to temperature and moisture levels.

Student Comment: 'I definitely learned a lot from [the course) but it was also beneficial in affirming [and raising my confidence] in what I already knew.'  Katrina Merrifield, Masters Conservation Science, NZ, Trees for Rehabilitation course,


There are ten lessons are as follows:

  1. Approaches To Land Rehabilitation
  2. Ecology Of Soils And Plant Health
  3. Introduction To Seed Propagation Techniques
  4. Propagation And Nursery Stock.
  5. Dealing With Chemical Problems
  6. Physical Plant Effects On Degraded Sites
  7. Plant Establishment Programs
  8. Hostile Environments
  9. Plant Establishment Care
  10. Rehabilitating Degraded Sites


Duration: 100 hours



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

  • Compare different approaches to land rehabilitation, to determine strengths and weaknesses of alternative options on a site to be rehabilitated.
  • Determine techniques to maximise plant development in land rehabilitation situations.
  • Explain the different ways of producing seedling trees for land rehabilitation purposes.
  • Determine appropriate plant establishment programs.
  • Develop procedures to care for plants, during establishment in an hostile environment.
  • Manage the rehabilitation of degraded soil.
  • Explain the effect of plants on improving a degraded site, both physically and chemically.


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

  • Determine ten different examples of land degradation on different sites.
  • Explain different reasons for land requiring rehabilitation, including:
    • Salination
    • Erosion
    • Mining
    • Grazing
    • Vegetation harvesting
    • Pests
    • Reduction of biodiversity
    • Soil contamination
    • Urbanisation
  • Compare the effectiveness of different policy approaches to land rehabilitation by different agencies and organisation, including:
    • Different levels of government
    • Mining companies
    • Developers
    • Conservation groups (i.e. tree planting bodies, landcare groups).
  • Develop a risk analysis for a specified site to be rehabilitated, by determining a variety of plant health problems which may impact on the success of plant establishment.
  • Analyse the failure of plants to grow successfully on a visited land rehabilitation site.
  • Develop a procedure to enhance the success rate of land rehabilitation plantings on a degraded site visited by you.
  • Describe the use of mulches, to maximise plant condition in a specified land rehabilitation tree planting project.
  • Explain different processes of establishing seedlings on land rehabilitation in:
    • tubestock nursery production
    • direct seeding
    • pre-germinated bare rooted seedlings.
  • Determine factors which affect the viability of establishing five different species of plant seedlings, from five different plant families; on a specific degraded site.
  • Compare the benefits of acquiring plants for a project by buying tubestock, with propagating and growing on, or close to, the planting site, with reference to:
    • costs
    • plant quality
    • local suitability
    • management.
  • Prepare production schedules for a plant species, using different propagation techniques, summarising all important tasks from collection of seed to planting out of the tubestock.
  • Calculate the cost of production for a tubestock plant, according to the production schedule developed by you.
  • Estimate the differences in per plant establishment costs, for tubestock, compared with direct seeding methods, for planting on a degraded site.
  • Describe three different methods of planting trees for rehabilitation purposes.
  • Describe different plant establishment techniques, including:
    • wind protection
    • frost protection
    • pest control
    • water management
    • weed management.
  • Describe an appropriate method for preparing soil for planting, at a proposed land rehabilitation site in your locality.
  • Evaluate plant establishment techniques used by two different land rehabilitation programs inspected by you at least twelve months after planting was carried out.
  • Determine the needs of plants after planting, on two different proposed land rehabilitation sites.
  • Describe two different, efficient ways, of catering to the needs of large numbers of plants after planting.
  • Collect pressed specimens or photographs of twenty trees for a herbarium of suitable trees for rehabilitation, and including information on the culture and care of each tree.
  • Describe different types of soil degradation, detected in your locality.
  • Determine the risk factors involved in soil degradation, relevant to your locality.
  • Compare two different alternative methods of treating each of three different soil degradation problems identified and inspected by you.
  • Develop an assessment form to use for evaluating the sensitivity of a site to land degradation.
  • Evaluate a site showing signs of degradation, selected by you, using the assessment form you developed.
  • Plan a rehabilitation program for the degraded site you evaluated, including
    • a two year schedule of work to be completed;
    • list of quantity and type of materials required;
    • approximate cost estimates.
  • Explain the effect six different plant species may have resisting soil degradation.
  • Explain how different plants can have different impacts upon the chemistry of their environment, including both air and soil.
  • Evaluate the significance of a group of plants, to the nature of the microclimate in which you find them growing.
  • Compare the appropriateness of twenty different plant species for different degraded sites.
  • Determine different plant varieties, suited to each of six different degradation situations.

Rehabilitating Degraded Land

In cases of severe land degradation the first step towards rehabilitation is identifying the problem and the underlying causal elements. Often there will be a number of contributing factors. Therefore, these factors must be neutralised or rectified in order to obtain as best as possible a complete solution to the problem. 

Plants and animals which are indigenous (i.e. occur naturally) in an area are obviously well adapted to the conditions found in that locality. They are usually an integral part of the complex ecosystem which occurs there, and contribute towards the balance of nature. As such the native plants and animals of an area should be cared for and preserved. To achieve this, you must be very cautious in making changes to their habitat. 
  • Always become aware of indigenous species before making changes to an environment. 
  • Preserve a proportion of the natural environment in its existing state.
  • Areas which have been preserved in their existing state should be linked by strips (ie. corridors) which are left unchanged (these corridors will allow plants and animals from different patches of preserved "natural areas" to interbreed/interact.
  • Indigenous plants contribute to an ecosystem by: 
  • Controlling erosion.
  • Providing barriers against pests or diseases
  • Providing food
  • Maintaining/replenishing soil fertility
  • Providing food and shelter for wildlife
  • Windbreaks
  • Biodiversity
  • Wildlife can contribute in many ways including:
  • Maintaining/replenishing soil fertility (e.g. from manures)
  • Controlling pests
  • Game (e.g. selective harvesting of unprotected species for food).

    Just go to the top of this page for pricing and enrolment options. If you have any questions you can contact us now, by:
    Phone (UK) 01384 44272, (International) +44 (0) 1384 442752, or

    Email us at [email protected]