Argus Ecology

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Habitat and vegetation surveys

Argus Ecology have experience of a wide range of habitat and vegetation survey methods, including:

  • Aerial photograph interpretation;
  • Phase 1 habitat survey;
  • Phase 2 / NVC vegetation survey;
  • River Corridor and River Habitat Surveys;
  • EUNIS biotope mapping;
  • Lower plant surveys; and
  • Detailed frequency / population size estimates.

Aerial photograph interpretation

Prior to field survey, the interpretation of aerial photography allows the ready identification of a number of habitats. Geo-referenced aerial photography overlain on an OS base plan can allow drawing of a draft habitat plan, which can then be ground-truthed in the field.

Phase 1 Habitat Survey

This is the ‘bread and butter’ survey which maps habitats according to standard categories, and describes vegetation in a series of ‘target notes’. Originally devised by the Nature Conservancy Council to map large areas of land using standard colour pencils on paper maps, the ‘extended Phase 1 survey’ is the basic recognised method for baseline ecological impact assessment. This also considers habitat quality for fauna; colour pencils and paper maps have been replaced by CAD plans and hatched polylines, with positional accuracy greatly improved by aerial photo overlays and direct mapping using differential GIS.

Phase 2 vegetation survey

Identification and mapping of National Vegetation Classification (NVC) plant communities is recommended on sites of higher conservation value, where a greater level of detail is required for site management or impact assessment purposes. It is a much more time-consuming method, requiring quadrat samples for validation, which are analysed using the TABLEFIT program, and by reference to published descriptions, in order to identify the correct NVC community. Mapping can less frequently rely on aerial photography or physical features, requiring much more field GPS plotting to determine community boundaries.

River Corridor and River Habitat Surveys

These are both methods of surveying rivers and streams. River Corridor Surveys were developed by the former National Rivers Authority, and consist of field mapping vegetation and physical features along the riparian corridor using standard symbols, with cross-sections of channel form.

River Habitat Surveys were developed by the Environment Agency; they have a greater emphasis on recording physical features in a series of spot-checks along a channel reach.

Argus Ecology have experience of both survey methods, as well as more detailed geomorphological assessments.

EUNIS biotope surveys

Where habitat data need to be compared across national boundaries, EUNIS biotope surveys provide a European standard classification, and have the further advantage that they can be classified and mapped at a number of different levels. Argus have experience of carrying out EUNIS Level 3 habitat mapping, and consider it superior in many ways to the Phase 1 methodology which is standard in the UK.

Lower plant surveys

Lower plants, including bryophytes, lichens and diatoms, can be utilised as sensitive indicators of environmental change, while being important parts of some habitats in their own right. We have in-house expertise in diatom surveys, while we have undertaken lichen and bryophyte surveys with our associates.

Detailed frequency and population size estimates

Sometimes it is necessary to carry out more detailed analysis of vegetation, either to establish relative frequency of component species in monitoring studies, or to establish the population size and distribution of a species of interest.