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Posts Tagged ‘Invertebrate Appraisal Surveys’

I estimate, that mid-June in each and every year, is approximately the middle of the calendar year; and approximately the middle of the main ecology survey season (in the UK).  With an enforced few days in the office given the weather (cool, grey skies and damp conditions), why mention the blues?

Well, I don’t want readers (Yes! it is still the plural) to think I have sunk in to a depression given the imminent EU Referendum (I haven’t).  It is just that as an invertebrate ecologist (mainly it would seem nowadays), I seek, I crave, I aspire to the blues.  Blue skies.

 

Blue skies over flower-rich grassland.  An invertebrate and an invertebrate ecologist's delight

Blue skies over flower-rich grassland. An invertebrate and an invertebrate ecologist’s delight!

Blue skies equals, in a UK summer, high pressure.  Meteorologically and work wise.  It means that I am busy, in the field surveying.  In 2016, I have been, and will continue to be surveying in various locations between south-west Scotland (near Stranraer) and east Kent (east of Canterbury).  And various places in between.  But today is a grey day so I am ‘stuck’ in the office.

A form of invertebrate survey, be it an initial appraisal or more detailed surveys are increasingly being asked for pre-planning by local authorities and environmental consultancies.  I don’t know why this seems to be the case.  It might be merely a consequence of an improving economy and an increase in house building (for example).  But it might also be that ecologists in consultancies, ecologists in local authorities and environmental co-ordinators within larger developers are becoming increasingly aware of the need to understand what invertebrates, be they individual species, assemblages or guilds such as pollinators, could be or are present on site.  May be developers, business & industry, and local authorities ‘connect’ with the concept that insects such as pollinators are ‘useful’ (as are dung-beetles which are more than proverbially useful)?  Whatever the reason, 2016 is exceptionally busy for me and I am very grateful to all my clients for commissioning me to work with them.

Indeed, it is so busy that I have, with the client’s agreement, delayed a survey until 2017.  So whilst I will be very busy during the second half of 2016 (be it the calendar year or ecology survey season), it remains a good time for others to consider if a site might need an invertebrate survey.

Like the appearance of blue skies, it is gladdening to know that invertebrates are increasing their profile and recognition within the planning and nature conservation sector.

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Followers of my blog will have noticed that in the last six months, there have been relatively few entries.  A consequence of being relatively busy in the field surveying and then subsequently relatively busy at my desk.  Opportunities are definitely increasing and I have already been asked to provide scopes of work for surveys in 2015.  Well done to those clients who are thinking ahead.  And perhaps this blog will also chivvy on those who are mulling over whether they ought to be thinking ahead.  Of course, in my view, you should, you must, you really ought to!

September is typically a very busy month as all of a sudden, lots of developers suddenly remember to get those ecology surveys completed before what is universally known as October.  October marks the beginning of what is traditionally viewed as the end of the survey season.  Though it is not necessarily the end of a survey season.  It can mark the beginning.

Wintering Bird Surveys

For example, winter bird surveys should start in October, especially if golden plover are an important species to consider.  Large developments on agricultural land such as housing should consider these species, especially if your site is within a few kilometres of the South Pennines Special Protected Area (as an example).  A straightforward desk study as part of the Preliminary Ecological Appraisal should identify the potential for this species and farmland birds in general on any given site.  And as farmland birds are included on Defra’s environmental key performance indicators, there is a clear and justifiable reason for assessing development impacts on farmland bird communities.

Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) smear themselves across lowland England in winter; often in flocks.

Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) smear themselves across lowland England in winter (often in flocks) within agricultural landscapes.  Surveys for these and other farmland birds should be completed to identify the impacts and assess the potential effects on populations.

Invertebrate Appraisal Surveys

Whilst October marks the beginning of winter bird surveys, it normally ends the invertebrate survey season.  I say normally, because in some instances, surveys can continue through he autumn and in to October (and beyond).  For instance, I am currently surveying for the rare upland money-spider, Semljicola caliginosus in the Northumberland Border Mires and this remains active during this period.

However, for invertebrates, it can also pay to think ahead.  Large sites, just like those requiring winter bird surveys, may also benefit from invertebrate appraisal surveys.  An invertebrate site appraisal is useful on large sites where there may be pockets of habitat justifying survey within a much wider landscape of relatively low interest habitat.  This is illustrated based on a recent paper published on the importance of hedgerows for Diptera (flies) within an agricultural landscape.  In this study, the authors estimated that in a single hedge, over 1,000 species were considered to be present; of which over 200 depended on it for breeding.  In a seperate paper, hedges were surveyed and large numbers of invertebrate species associated with dead wood were recorded, thereby suggesting that linear wooded habitats could support important faunas more normally associated with woodlands.  Context is important here, for example, proximity and connectivity to woodlands, presence of semi-natural grasslands and wetland features such as field ponds.  A hedge survey to comply with the Hedgerow Regulations won’t necessarily consider the value the feature has for invertebrates.  For example, an unimportant hedge (within the meaning of the Regulations) may still be important for invertebrates if it has a couple of reasonably large (‘mature’) trees that are either dead; or contain dead wood.  Where there is a network of hedges with such features, cumulatively, they may support a noteworthy saproxylic (‘dead-wood’) fauna.

Dead tree in hedge

A dead tree in an otherwise ‘unimportant’ hedge can provide habitat for saproxylic invertebrates. An invertebrate appraisal of a large site can identify features which may otherwise be missed; or concluded to be of negligible value for other groups (e.g.bats)

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