Plant surveys are carried out for a variety of reasons, to assess habitat quality, condition and type as well as to find the location and abundance of rare species.
A broad-brush survey technique that allows a quick assessment of the habitat quality of large areas of land. This method is particularly well suited to areas that are largely farmed or developed with large areas of cultivated grasslands with oases of more natural habitat. Further, more detailed work (Phase 2/NVC) is then required to assess areas identified as of potentially high habitat quality.
A more detailed survey method that classified habitats according to the species assemblage of homogeneous stands. This gives information as to the range of species present, type of habitat and habitat condition. This type of survey is mainly used to provide more detailed information for areas identified as of some conservation interest at Phase 1, or for larger areas of natural/semi-natural habitat such as uplands. It is the most appropriate level of survey for EIA.
Detailed survey of the habitat and structure of riparian corridors. Strategic surveys cover whole rivers or large sections, reactive surveys cover specific sections threatened by development.
Assessment of impact levels on large areas of natural/semi-natural habitat, for example from grazing, burning, drainage or other management. These are generally used to provide data to inform future management strategy or environmental grant applications.
The appropriate method to determine the location, distribution and abundance of particular species depends on particular circumstances, e.g. a rare orchid may require counting individual spikes whereas montane willows could be assessed by mapping blocks of habitat. Quadrat Scotland can advise on the most appropriate method for your requirements.
Lichens, mosses and liverworts are surveyed by assessment of likely habitats by an ecologist with expertise in this area. Identification of many species requires the use of microscope, spore and chemical analyses.
Apart from the main survey techniques above, there are many ways of assessing vegetation to answer specific questions. E.g. Quadrat Scotland have recently devised a programme to monitor the impact of deer trampling on blanket bog within upland areas by means of small exclosures and control plots (see photo). Other monitoring by fixed quadrats, point assessments, photographs and random quadrats have also been carried out.