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Habitat Surveys

Applied Ecology Ltd has extensive experience of all standard habitat and botanical survey methods used within the UK and is able to provide an expert view on the relative value of habitats and plant communities. In some instances standard survey methods are not appropriate, and in these situations we are able to apply our experience to develop and implement bespoke survey methods to suit our clients’ needs.

We offer the following habitat and botanical surveys:

Phase 1 habitat survey

Phase 1 habitat survey is the standard approach to mapping the extent and distribution of broad habitat types.  It is often used to make an initial assessment of a site’s habitat interest, and can be used to produce an important first-step habitat constraints plan for the purposes of guiding large-scale development projects.

Phase 1 Habitat survey map

Phase 1 Habitat survey map for Able UK Ltd


The method uses a standard habitat classification system, with each habitat type being mapped according to a standard colour palette and mapping codes.  In addition to the habitat map, details of the habitats present and their botanical character are recorded in the form of habitat ‘target notes’.  These are shown as numbers on the Phase 1 map and are cross-referenced to detailed descriptions of the habitats and plant species present in these particular locations.  Target notes are recorded in strategic locations across the survey area in order to provide details of both typical and unique areas of semi-natural habitat, as well as other important habitat/biodiversity features, including those too small to map accurately in the field.

Our habitat maps are presented in Geographic Information System (GIS) format, using a colour palette developed specifically by Applied Ecology Ltd to be faithful to the original Phase 1 scheme.  Presenting our maps in GIS format allows us to generate accurate habitat area calculations, and if necessary, to determine habitat loss associated with proposed development, for example for the purpose of Ecological Impact Assessment.  Phase 1 habitat surveys should normally be completed between April and October, although for small and simple sites this survey period can often be extended.

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Plant community (NVC) survey

The National Vegetation Classification (NVC) provides a comprehensive classification and description of the terrestrial and aquatic plant communities of Britain, and is the standard method by which the character and value of plant communities are assessed.  An NVC survey generally includes a detailed plant community map, which if produced using a Geographic Information System (GIS) can allow area calculations to be made.  The NVC classification is informed by quadrat sample data, and a written report giving descriptions of the vegetation types present and their relative importance.

NVC survey - hydro power development - Affric-Cannich Hills SSSI & Strathglass Complex SAC

An NVC survey may be necessary for example, when semi-natural habitats (perhaps identified by a desk-top review or during a Phase 1 survey) have been identified within a proposed development site as being of high potential conservation importance, and confirmation of their extent and value is required.  In such instances, an NVC map would help identify areas of key plant interest in order that they could be avoided, if possible, and/or subject to targeted habitat translocation as part of development planning.  Aside from its value in development related schemes, the NVC also provides an important tool for SSSI selection, identifying Annex 1 Habitats, developing conservation management options, and is a common standard for site monitoring.

NVC surveys should take place between April and September – see Survey Calendar.

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Hedgerow survey

Hedgerows are a Priority Habitat under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), and therefore their protection and/or replacement with regard to potential loss or damage in relation to development could be raised as a material planning consideration.

Hedgerow Regulation assessment survey for Hanson Aggregates in Oxfordshire

A number of hedgerow survey methods have been developed to assess the value of individual hedges, but of particular relevance to development planning in England and Wales are the Hedgerow Regulations 1997.  The Regulations provide details of the field survey and assessment method used to determine whether a hedgerow should be considered important under the Regulations.  A Hedgerow Regulation assessment is based on, among other things, Wildlife and Landscape criteria such as hedgerow woody species richness and connectivity to other habitat features.  The relevant Local Authority has the power to issue a retention notice on important hedgerows if it is not satisfied that circumstances justify their removal.  Hedgerow surveys are best undertaken outside the winter period when they are in leaf.

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Aquatic habitat surveys

Applied Ecology Ltd has expertise in freshwater aquatic habitat survey, and members of our team have excellent knowledge of aquatic flora in rivers, lakes, ponds and other wetland habitats.

We operate a small work boat with trailer, and a sea kayak that enable us to complete aquatic surveys efficiently and safely on sheltered inland wetlands. We hire larger vessels for conducting surveys in more exposed and extensive water-bodies.

Macrophyte monitoring of draw-down trial in Hampshire for Wessex Water

Applied Ecology Ltd work boat for carrying out aquatic habitat surveys

River Thames MTR macrophyte survey for Cascade Consulting

River Thames MTR macrophyte survey for Cascade Consulting

Charophyte survey of Cotswold Water Park lakes for Yoo Ltd & The Raven Group Plc

Our experience of standard survey methods includes River Corridor Survey, River Habitat Survey, and Mean Trophic Rank (MTR) macrophyte surveys.

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SSSI condition monitoring

One of Natural England’s statutory duties is to assess the condition of all Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) on a six-year cycle in order to monitor the health of these sites in the long-term.  The Countryside Council for Wales and Scottish Natural Heritage also have similar responsibilities.  Applied Ecology Ltd ecologists have experience in carrying out site condition assessments using standard survey methods across a range of habitat types in the UK.

Sawston Fen SSSI condition survey for a private client

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Bespoke habitat surveys

Applied Ecology Ltd employs a highly skilled team of ecologists that are able to adapt existing methods and develop new approaches to habitat and botanical surveys in order to meet the demands and requirements of particular projects.

Arable plant survey - Corncockle (Agrostemma githago)

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