Phase 1 Habitat Surveys

PlantEcol can provide a comprehensive high-quality standard Phase 1 habitat survey of any size area. A survey of a large (190 km2) area for an estate in the Scottish Highlands has recently been completed with 3E Services Ltd. Reports can include Phase 1 maps using standard GIS software (ArcGIS or QGIS). This survey can be extended to include an assessment of the likelihood that a site might support protected species of animal (such as great crested newts, otter, badger, bats, water vole) and/or plant.

Dominant habitats
An example of part of a map showing the dominant habitats at a site in the uplands of Scotland

Vegetation Surveys (NVC system)

The types of plant community present at a site are often used by planning authorities in assessing the nature conservation value of particular sites. The National Vegetation Classification (NVC) system is used as standard for naming the plant community types, but where appropriate deviations from the recognised units are described and appropriate modifiers identified to take into account of local deviations from the standard description of communities. With having worked on or visited all habitat types across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, I can map the plant communities in all terrestrial and freshwater environments found in Britain.

Vegetation survey
An example of a vegetation map showing the proportion (range in %) of polygons with two different plant communities.

Botanical Surveys including non-native invasive species

PlantEcol Limited can provide a comprehensive botanical survey of sites for all groups of plants. The British Isles are especially important internationally for the diversity and rarity of its mosses, liverworts and lichens, and in many respects they are of greater importance than the flowering plants and birds found here. Consequently it is important that these groups of plants are recognised in any conservation work or development plans. PlantEcol can draw on a number of nationally recognised experts in helping to confirm the identity of difficult species or to perform surveys of sites for critical groups of plants (e.g. lichens, critical bryophytes and ferns).

Surveys for invasive species of plant, in particular Japanese knotweed, giant hogweed, Himalayan balsam, parrot’s feather and New Zealand pygmyweed, can be carried out.

Dr Headley has experience of surveying with both Geodimeters and differential GPS to map key species and communities to a high level of accuracy. I have been trained in a number of spatial statistical methods so that changes in the abundance or distribution of species over time can be assessed using various methods.

Mylia Taylorii
The leafy liverwort Mylia taylorii
Reynoutria japonica
The invasive weed Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica)

Aquatic Ecology and Hydrochemistry

Aquatic macrophytes are plants that are clearly visible to the naked eye and are sometimes used in assessing water quality in rivers and lakes. This group includes filamentous algae, lichens, mosses and liverworts as well as flowering plants that are emergent as well as submerged in the water column. Therefore, in order to carry out an aquatic macrophyte survey, a very high degree of botanical expertise is required. Both standard survey methods (e.g. Mean Trophic Rank, Common Standards Monitoring) and tailor-made surveys can be carried out. This includes the collection and analysis of surface waters for pH, titratable alkalinity, nitrate, ammonia and total phosphorus. Dr Headley also has many years experience of analysing and interpreting hydrochemical data from fens, rivers and various other freshwater bodies and their likely impact on ecological receptors.

Using a grapnel
Sampling for aquatic plants (macrophytes)

Hedgerow Surveys

Important hedgerows are protected under the Hedgerows Regulations (1999) and any works with the potential to damage or remove a hedgerow requires the submission of an application. Because of my experience in identifying plants, PlantEcol can assess the vast majority of hedgerows against the criteria laid down in the Hedgerow Regulations at most times of the year, including winter.

Carrying out a hedgerow survey

Site Condition Assessments using Common Standards Monitoring (CSM)

The quality of most conservationally important areas (Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Special Areas of Conservation, etc) needs to be assessed using standardised methods. The statutory conservation agencies have devised a set of targets and attributes against which conservationally important sites can be assessed. These methods can also be utilised to assess the quality of non-statutory sites.

Dr Headley has carried out CSM assessments for at least 17 SACs and 20 SSSIs across Scotland and England. A good knowledge of the British flora is required as well as being able to evaluate objectively the impact of various livestock and human activities on the vegetation, soils and other landscape features in the environment.

A CSM map
The results of common standards monitoring of upland habitats across an estate in Scotland

Herbivore and other Land Management Impact Surveys

Dr Headley has over 16 years experience of carrying out herbivore and land management impact surveys on upland habitats in Scotland and England. This is based on using various semi-quantitative estimates of the extent of utilisation of vegetation by sheep, cattle and wild animals (principally deer and grouse) as described in MacDonald et al. (1998)

Muir-burning on a moor in Yorkshire