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Exploring wildlife habitat survey methods

Exploring Wildlife Habitat Survey Methods

This article explores how the latest advancements in wildlife habitat survey methods contribute to conservation goals. But also how they help infrastructure services create a sustainable coexistence.

Ecological services play an essential role in minimising environmental impact and wildlife preservation. Typically, this approach involves incorporating ecological principles and practices into infrastructure projects‘ planning, design, construction and maintenance.

Wildlife habitat survey methods are pivotal in helping determine and understand wildlife habitats. Combining cutting-edge technologies, data analysis, and expert knowledge can gain a deeper understanding of ecosystems. This can inform targeted habitat preservation strategies and ensure sustainable development practices and environmental compliance.

What is a Phase 1 Habitat Survey?

The Phase 1 Habitat Survey is a widely used method for classifying and mapping wildlife habitats in the UK, including urban areas. As a standardised system, it provides a basic assessment of habitat type and potential importance for nature conservation.

The Phase 1 Handbook by the Joint Nature Conservancy Council (JNCC) provides detailed guidance on the planning, executing and interpreting of habitat surveys.1

The Importance of Wildlife Habitat Surveys

Wildlife habitat surveys form the backbone of conservation efforts, providing critical insights into the ecosystems that support various species. These surveys help identify key components of habitats, assess their health and understand the impact of human activities on these delicate ecosystems.

As we face unprecedented challenges such as habitat loss, climate change and biodiversity decline, the need for accurate and comprehensive habitat surveys in planning, designing, constructing and maintaining infrastructure projects has never been more pressing.

Different Wildlife Habitat Survey Methods

There are many wildlife habitat survey methods; let’s take a look at them in more detail:

Remote Sensing for Urban Planning

Satellite imagery and remote sensing technologies employed in wildlife habitat surveys can be harnessed for urban planning and infrastructure development. By incorporating ecological services into the planning phase, cities can identify and preserve green spaces, ensuring a harmonious coexistence between urban environments and natural habitats.

Biodiversity in Urban Landscapes

Field surveys, traditionally associated with studying natural habitats, can be adapted to assess and enhance biodiversity within urban landscapes. Ecological services, equipped with advanced technologies, contribute to surveys that inform urban planners on how to design green spaces that support local flora and fauna, contributing to a healthier and more sustainable urban ecosystem.

Camera Traps for Infrastructure Impact Assessment

In the construction phase of infrastructure projects, camera traps can serve a dual purpose. While originally designed for wildlife monitoring, these motion-activated cameras can also document the impact of construction activities on local ecosystems. Ecological services, in collaboration with construction teams, can analyse camera trap data to assess how infrastructure development may affect the movement and behaviour of wildlife. This proactive approach ensures that potential ecological disruptions are identified and mitigated.

Acoustic Monitoring for Ecosystem Health

Acoustic monitoring, initially employed to study wildlife vocalisations, can be repurposed to monitor noise pollution resulting from transportation infrastructure. By utilising ecological services, governments and transportation authorities can assess the impact of noise on wildlife habitats and implement measures to minimise disruptions.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Mapping for Sustainable Infrastructure

GIS mapping, a staple in wildlife habitat surveys, is equally valuable in infrastructure planning. Ecological services can create detailed maps highlighting ecologically sensitive areas, allowing infrastructure projects to be designed with minimal impact on critical habitats.

Integrating GIS mapping into infrastructure planning ensures that projects are efficient and environmentally conscious, contributing to sustainable development.

Balancing Conservation and Development

The challenge lies in finding the delicate balance between conservation and infrastructure development. Ecological services act as mediators, facilitating collaborative solutions prioritising environmental preservation and human progress.

By fostering partnerships between ecologists, urban planners and infrastructure developers, a shared understanding can be achieved, resulting in projects that meet the needs of society while respecting the ecological integrity of the surrounding environment.

Using Ecological Services in Infrastructure Development

Taking an ecological approach aims to enhance sustainability while promoting the coexistence of infrastructure and natural ecosystems. There are several key areas where ecological services can be beneficial in infrastructure development:

  • Green Infrastructure: Refers to using natural systems, such as wetlands, forests and green spaces, to manage water, reduce pollution and provide other environmental benefits. Ecological services can guide the incorporation of green infrastructure elements, such as permeable pavements, green roofs, and rain gardens, into urban development plans.
  • Biodiversity Conservation: Infrastructure projects often intersect with natural habitats. Ecological services may involve strategies to protect and enhance biodiversity by identifying and preserving critical habitats, creating wildlife corridors and implementing measures to minimise disruption to local ecosystems.
  • Stormwater Management: Ecological services play a role in sustainable stormwater management. Practices such as using natural vegetation for water filtration, creating retention ponds and incorporating swales can be guided by ecological principles to mitigate the impact of stormwater runoff from infrastructure developments.
  • Ecological Restoration: In cases where infrastructure projects disturb natural habitats, ecological services may involve developing plans for ecological restoration. This could include replanting native vegetation, restoring wetlands and implementing measures to rehabilitate ecosystems affected by construction activities.
  • Wildlife Corridor Planning: Infrastructure projects like roads and highways can fragment habitats and disrupt wildlife movement. Ecological services may be involved in planning and designing wildlife corridors. Creating connective pathways that allow animals to move between fragmented habitats, promoting genetic diversity and maintaining healthy populations.
  • Ecosystem-Based Adaptation: Ecological services can contribute to infrastructure resilience by incorporating ecosystem-based adaptation strategies. This involves using natural features, such as coastal wetlands, to protect against storm surges and rising sea levels to reduce infrastructure vulnerability to climate change impacts.
  • Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): Ecological services may play a role in conducting EIAs for infrastructure projects. This involves assessing potential impacts on ecosystems and identifying measures to minimise negative effects, ensuring that projects adhere to environmental regulations.


Integrating green infrastructure, which mimics natural ecosystems, represents a forward-thinking approach. Ecological services can guide the implementation of green roofs, permeable pavements and other nature-based solutions that enhance urban environments and contribute to habitat preservation.

The ongoing technological advancements, driven by ecological services, pave the way for smarter and more sustainable infrastructure. Technology offers innovative solutions that benefit conservation and infrastructure development, from AI-driven analysis of ecological data to the use of drones in monitoring construction impacts.

Contact RSS Infrastructure

Connect with Alex Blundell, our Principal Ecologist, for an insightful discussion on how we can support your environmental goals. Call us at 0330 113 0004 or ecology@rssinfrastructure.com

  1. JNCC Handbook for Phase 1 Habitat Survey

About Us

RSS Infrastructure (RSSI), based in Birmingham, Cwmbran, Doncaster and Tonbridge, provides infrastructure services for the rail, civil, and utilities sectors. We serve clients like Network Rail, WMCA, HS2 and Tier 1 & 2 contractors. Our services include Arboriculture, Civils and Construction, Geofencing, Industrial Rope Access (IRATA), Magnetic Track Safety, Rail Operations including Possession Management and P/Way, Rail Welding, Signalling, and Track Warning Services.

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