Client: Natural England
Sector: Environmental Research
Project at a glance
Natural England required development and implementation of a system for condition monitoring of Priority Habitats which lie outside of designated areas. This entailed development of an entirely new survey methodology, organisation of survey teams throughout the South West, and follow up assessment of design and implementation suitability.
The First Ecology solution
First Ecology worked with Local Nature Partnerships (LNPs) throughout the region to ensure thorough trials of the survey methodology. The methodology was first drawn up by staff members with extensive experience of existing botanical habitat monitoring systems. Habitat condition variables were identified for three distinct Priority Habitats (Lowland Meadow, Heath and Fen), along with list of positive and negative indicator species. Three different survey approaches were also developed, differing depending on habitat. Additionally, to handle survey data, data entry software and a GIS toolkit were constructed, along with detailed mapping of randomly selected Priority Habitat areas.
First Ecology then organised training for LNP surveyors, introducing the approach to ensure it was well understood and executed uniformly across the region. First Ecology’s experienced surveyors undertook the survey work in Somerset and Cornwall, the rest of the region being covered by the relevant Local Nature Partnerships.
Survey data was then entered and mapped using the toolkit provided, and First Ecology is currently in the process of assessing the results in parallel with feedback collected from LNPs.
Outcome and benefits
Analysis and evaluation of the methodologies and approach is currently underway in consultancy with Natural England. First Ecology will deliver a final report detailing key findings, and proposals with detailed costs for implementing and rolling out local habitat surveillance more widely to meet the aims and objectives of Natural England. The eventual goal being to establish an on-going programme of monitoring through partners focusing on areas of habitats outside of monitoring by statutory agencies, until a national network of habitat monitoring is established.