Need an ecological survey?
What you should do first
- Contact Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre for existing information
- Site assessment by a qualified ecologist
- Commission any necessary survey work
- Ensure surveys are carried out at the appropriate time of year.
Finding out about a site
The first stage in any site enquiry is to find out what information is already available. Regarding the wildlife of a site, this means finding out exactly what wild plants and animals occur there. This stage in a site enquiry is called a desk study and the information it yields is an important part of a baseline ecological report on the site.
Biological information on sites in East and West Sussex and the City of Brighton & Hove is held by Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre. The SxBRC database currently holds in excess of 3 million records of plants and animals (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects and other invertebrates). These records have been made by a wide range of observers, from ecologists and wildlife specialists to members of the public. The records may constitute part of a scientifically-planned survey or may simply be casual observations.
The Record Centre can therefore only provide species and habitat information on a site if it is held on its database – this may be a considerable amount of information in the case of some protected areas such as SSSIs which attract the attention of many biological experts, but may be extremely limited in other areas. Generally, if a site has only a small number of species recorded from it, this almost always means that no-one has looked there, NOT that there is nothing on the site. Therefore, consulting the Record Centre does not constitute an ecological survey, neither does it mean that a developer has fulfilled its environmental obligations.
Requesting ecological information of a site from SxBRC is the correct first step and will:
- Provide details of any available species records and any ecological surveys undertaken on the site or adjacent land.
- Identify whether any of these species are protected under UK and European legislation.
- Identify whether any species are rare in Sussex.
- Identify whether any of these species are listed on Sussex or UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
- Identify the location of important habitats in relation to the site.
- Identify whether the site, or adjacent land, has designated status (international, national or local)
- Provide ecological information that can be used to identify gaps in the baseline information and how best to fill these gaps.
- Enable any new survey work that is required to be scheduled for the right time of year.
A site assessment should involve a visit to the site by a competent ecologist and an interpretation of the existing baseline data to identify whether any missing information is significant. It may be necessary at this stage to commission survey work to fill significant gaps; for instance, a botanical survey, a breeding bird survey or a bat survey. If there is a pond on or near the site, a great crested newt survey might be needed if this has not already been carried out.
Your local record centre
A local planner or developer needs to be able to access accurate biological information as quickly and reliably as possible. Having to contact a number of different individuals or organisations can be a frustrating and time-consuming exercise, with no guarantee that the information returned will be presented in a way that can be interpreted easily. Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre is a not-for-profit partnership organisation. It provides a fast, cost-effective service, producing a report of all the protected, rare and Biodiversity Action Plan species on and adjacent to the target site, plus a list of all the surveys that may have been carried out. A full species list can also be produced if required.
There is no charge for the information, which was given freely, but a small charge is levied to commercial enquirers to cover the costs involved in extracting the information and providing it in a concise, informative report. SxBRC is in the best position to provide a cost-effective service to planners and developers in Sussex.
When your site needs more surveys…
Everyone is aware of the changing seasons, but not everyone realises that most groups of wildlife need to be surveyed at particular times of the year for best results. It is generally known that birds nest in spring, but not as well-known that the best time to survey for great crested newts is March – April.