What is an Ecology Survey?

Have you ever seen the movie, Erin Brockovich? Based on a true story, the film was released in 2000 with an Academy Award for Best Actress performance from Julia Roberts as the title character?

It’s a story about the population of a small town being gradually poisoned to death by the town’s largest employer, whose waste products have been released into the local environment. Roberts’ character investigates and finds the employer and their Head Office had been aware of the impact for decades and did nothing to stop it from continuing.

The damage to the environment and its effects is the sort of thing that ecology surveys reveal.

What are ecological surveys?

An ecological survey is a vital part in many planning applications. Their purpose is to gather a range of information about a site’s suitability for a proposed development. This is especially important where any development might impact the existing biodiversity on site.

An ecological walkover survey will assess the site for animals, habitat and valuable plant life. When the local planning authority information receives this information, they are better placed to decide on any danger to any existing protected species in the area.

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Why is an ecological survey needed?

Local planning authorities need to consider whether any proposed developments will negatively impact the habitat and any protected species present.

Providing this information upfront with your application speeds up the application process and demonstrates your awareness of the requirements and understanding of ecological constraints as part of the design process.

Depending on the site’s location, there may be wildlife legislation that must be complied with. An ecology survey takes this into account and ensures your application cannot be rejected because of a lack of relevant information.

The ecology report will give recommendations for further surveys or detail any risk to protected species and habitats. This can remove doubts about habitat loss and its impact on species.

The report can also outline the benefits of the development and how any potential impacts can be mitigated.

habitat survey

habitat survey

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How is a habitat survey conducted?

It usually starts with an ecological desk study, collecting relevant information like examining species records and distribution.

Next is a walkover survey, where the ecological consultant visits the site and takes detailed notes of all the observed species of plants and habitats present.

An ecological assessment was produced. This will include a habitat map, noting habitat types and specific areas of biodiversity value. The information gathered will relate to the biological records data required from bodies like the local planning authority, and local wildlife organizations.

A report is produced that includes all the information, and the ecological consultant grades the site based on ecological issues and any potential risks posed to species and protected habitats present.

If the proposed site has a high nature conservation value, then the developers will need to provide details on how they plan to mitigate any damage to that conservation value. The report may also propose further surveys to better evaluate the site’s ecological features.

In the Erin Brockovich example, an initial ecological survey may have indicated that waste from the business entering the local environment would lead to poisoning of the human population and should have included how the business would ensure this did not occur. Either that survey did not happen, wasn’t accurate, or the business ignored the recommended processes to avoid the poisoning.

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