What is Revegetation?

Revegetation is an important and urgent issue in natural resources management in Australia. It is the process of replanting vegetation and rebuilding soil of disturbed land for the principal purpose to rehabilitate or protect degraded land.

In the revegetation exercise, preference is always given to local native plants utilizing different revegetation techniques and methods such as natural regeneration, direct seeding and tube stock planting. Globally, Australia’s revegetation efforts fall under the umbrella of the UN Environmental Programme, which celebrated World Environment Day the 5th of June under the theme: Reimagine, Recreate and Restore.  The importance of woody vegetation within the Australian landscape was recognised at a Government level in 1989 with the formation of Landcare Australia. Revegetation in the Australian agriculture sector is highlighted comprehensively by SoilsForLife. There is widespread acceptance among the community that extensive revegetation is needed to counter environmental problems arising from the loss of native vegetation, including decline in biodiversity. Recent research from the Griffith University, demonstrated the feasibility of a large-scale revegetation approach in one of Australia’s most iconic agricultural regions, the Murray-Darling Basin. In retrospect, the Australian Government’s 20 Million Trees Programme, was aimed at working towards establishing 20 million trees and associated understory species by 2020 as part of the National Landcare Program

This article focuses on highlighting:

  • The importance and benefits of revegetation in Australia.
  • The different types of revegetation techniques and methods in Australia.
  • Mine revegetation in Australia.
  • Updates on what is happening on the ‘revegetation front’ in Australia. 

What is the importance & benefits of revegetation in Australia?

The importance and benefits of revegetation in Australia are as follows:

  • For shade and shelter, for example, for livestock, pasture and crops
  • For fodder production 
  • For timber production 
  • For native products, such as cut flowers and foliage, bushfoods, biomass production and medicines
  • To control weeds, for example, serrated tussock
  • To stabilize soil 
  • To reduce or control salinity
  • To manage pests, for example attracting native birds to control insects
  • As habitat for native wildlife 
  • To enhance rare or threatened species or plant communities
  • To enhance existing native revegetation 
  • To reverse tree decline 
  • To act as a sink for greenhouse gases
  • To maintain landscape
  • For seed orchards or seed production areas to ensure future seed resources
  • To improve water quality 
  • To improve the amenity around homes and buildings 
  • For aesthetic reasons, for example, screening unwanted views
  • To create a pleasant living and working environment
  • For social and educational purposes
  • For mine closure and rehabilitation purposes. 

What are the different types of revegetation techniques & methods in Australia?

There are a variety of revegetation techniques and methods. Revegetation is not limited to one technique or method, they vary depending on the scale of works, the labor available and site conditions and needs

Are environmental regulations, health and safety concerns or potential profit loss a concern right now?

  1. Natural regeneration: often, the cheapest form of revegetation. This takes place though encouraging natural regeneration through germination of self-sown seedlings from existing or nearby vegetation. It should be considered as the first option for re-establishing native vegetation. 
  2. Direct seeding: is a cost effective and highly efficient technique, particularly for large scale projects. Carried out by machine or by hand, direct seeding has many applications and advantages for plant establishment. 
  3. Tube stock planting: seedlings can be growing in a variety of containers, to suit the scale and purposes of works and can be planted by machine or by hand. 
  4. Hydraulic methods: hydroseeding and hydromulching are used in revegetation and provide a method of broadcasting or dispersing seed, controlling erosion and stabilizing the soil surface to allow seedling to establish and applying fertilizers and other soil amendments. 

Species selection for revegetation should aim to maximize opportunities to provide environmental, economic and social benefits. Local native indigenous species, grown from local seeds or plant material are generally the preferred choice for revegetation. They provide the greatest range of long-term benefits because they:

  • are best suited to the local conditions and can still fulfill all the functional roles required from farm trees and shrubs
  • maximize biodiversity in the local area 
  • provide the best habitat for local wildlife 
  • benefit the health of existing remnants 
  • are well suited to regenerating without assistance
  • benefit farm productivity 
  • will maintain the natural character of the local landscape

What is mine revegetation in Australia?

We bring to light, the recently completed AusiIMM Life of Mine Conference and the current review of the Western Australia Mining Act 1978.  There is always a contentious debate between two schools of thought when it comes to mine revegetation falling under mine rehabilitation or whether mine planning is key. The first school of thought suggests that mine rehabilitation is the ‘green’ side to mining which involves revegetation and ecosystem restoration. The second school of thought states that the most important part of any mine rehabilitation and closure is earthmoving and materials management which is the mine planning. Strong proponents of mine planning raise concerns of lack of knowledge of the volume of available rehabilitation resources, although the completion criteria for revegetation and the post-mine land use have already been set. The stern warning from them is that this is a clear pathway to failure and does little to establish confidence in the mining industries social license to operate. How do you feel about it? What is your take on the two school of thought?

What has been happening on the ‘revegetation front’ in Australia?

We round off our discussion with a did you know feature, followed by some of the revegetation projects of note in Australia. Did you know that more than 1/3 of Australia is desert? 83% of mammals in Australia are endemic, many of which call the bush home. Therefore, revegetation of the bush in Australia provides vital habitat for Australia’s unique native species and prevents emissions from being released. Other interesting revegetation projects and a key upcoming revegetation event in Australia include:

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Bolan, N.S., Kirkham, M.B. and Ok, Y.S. 2018. Spoil to Soil: Mine Site Rehabilitation and Revegetation. Taylor & Francis Group. New York.  

Freudenberger, D. 2018. Matching effort to threat: Strategies to increase the scale and effectiveness of revegetation in southern Australia. Ecological Management & Restoration. 19. 81. 

Graham et al. 2008. Climatic Drivers of Revegetation Management Practices in Australia: Analysis of a Social Survey. Small-scale Forestry. 7. 183-203. 

Lindenmayer et al. 2010. Conservation strategies in response to rapid climate change: Australia as a case study. Biological Conservation. 143. 1587-1593. 

Mayence et al. 2017. Seed dormancy, soil type and protective shelters influence seedling emergence at Shark Bay, Western Australia: Insight into global dryland revegetation. Ecological Management & Restoration. 18. 2. 

Munshower, F.F. 2018. Practical Handbook of Disturbed Land Revegetation. Taylor & Francis Group. 

Rooney, M., and Paul, K.I. 2017. Assessing policy and carbon price settings for incentivizing reforestation activities in a carbon market: An Australian perspective. Land Use Policy. 67. 725-732.