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Conducting Specialist Surveys of Protected Species

Conducting Specialist Surveys for Protected Species

Understanding and protecting endangered or sensitive species is paramount concerning ecological conservation and environmental management. This article delves into the intricacies of specialist surveys for Protected Species, highlighting their significance and providing a comprehensive guide for conducting such surveys for protected species.

The State of Nature in the UK

According to the State of Nature 2023 Report,1, the species of animals and plants in the UK have declined by an average of 19% since monitoring began in 1970. While 16% of species assessed are at risk of extinction.

The report shows that this decline has resulted in the UK losing nearly half of its biodiversity. Changes in industry, agriculture and development are thought to have contributed to this decline over the years through widespread habitat loss and degradation in the country.

This is why specialist surveys for protected species must be front and centre of any development projects. Some of the main endangered species in the UK2 include:

  • Hedgehogs
  • Red Squirrels
  • Water Voles
  • Beavers
  • Scottish Wildcats
  • Hazel Dormice
  • Grey Long-Eared Bat

Why Are Surveys for Protected Species Important?

Conducting specialist surveys for protected species is a crucial step in any infrastructure project, offering invaluable insights into their habitats, behaviours and population dynamics to help preserve biodiversity.

Protected species, whether rare flora or elusive fauna, contribute to biodiversity. Specialist surveys are instrumental in identifying and monitoring these species, to aid the development of conservation strategies. By understanding their habitats and distribution, conservationists can take targeted actions to safeguard these crucial components of our ecosystems.

Across the UK, there are stringent regulations in place to protect endangered species. Conducting specialist surveys is not just a best practice but often a legal requirement. Developers, land managers, and environmental consultants must adhere to these regulations to ensure compliance and mitigate potential legal repercussions.

Planning and Preparation for Surveys for Protected Species

A thorough site assessment is imperative before embarking on a specialist survey for protected species. To carry out surveys for protected species, it’s crucial to collaborate with licensed ecologists. These experts can help navigate both desk and field surveys to pinpoint the existence of protected species or habitats.

The process begins with a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA), featuring a Phase 1 Habitat Survey to determine whether protected species are present. Should protected species be discovered, a necessary next step is an Ecological Impact Assessment (EIA) to keep the project on track.

These surveys cover a wide range, including botanical assessments and checks for various protected species like bats, great crested newts, hazel dormice, reptiles, water voles, badgers and breeding birds.

Different protected species have distinct ecological requirements. Before the survey, it is crucial to identify the specific species of interest and familiarise the survey team with their characteristics. This knowledge is fundamental for accurate data collection and interpretation.

Methodologies for Protected Species Surveys

The methodologies for protected species surveys include:

Habitat Suitability Modelling

Utilising technology and geographical information systems (GIS), habitat suitability modelling helps predict where protected species are likely to be found. This aids surveyors in targeting specific areas and optimising time and resources for more efficient surveys.

Presence/Absence Surveys

The basic principle of any specialist survey involves determining the presence or absence of the protected species in the designated area. This may involve visual observations, camera traps or acoustic monitoring, depending on the nature of the species.

Population Density Estimation

For a more nuanced understanding of the ecological health of a population, specialists often employ techniques to estimate population density. This can involve mark-and-recapture methods, genetic sampling or advanced statistical models.

Challenges in Specialist Surveys

Ecologists can face challenges when conducting specialist surveys. Two of the main challenges include:

Elusiveness of Protected Species

Many protected species are inherently elusive, making their detection challenging. This requires surveyors to employ a combination of traditional methods and emerging technologies to overcome the inherent difficulties associated with studying these creatures.

Environmental Variability

Environmental factors such as seasonal changes, weather patterns and habitat alterations can impact the effectiveness of specialist surveys. Adapting survey methodologies to account for such variability is crucial for obtaining reliable and accurate data.

Enhancing Protected Species Surveys with Technology

Drones equipped with high-resolution cameras and thermal imaging technology have revolutionised specialist surveys. They enable surveyors to access difficult terrain, cover larger areas and gather data from a bird’s-eye perspective. This provides a comprehensive view of the landscape.

Advancements in bioacoustics technology allow for monitoring protected species through their vocalisations. This non-invasive method benefits nocturnal or cryptic species and provides valuable insights into their presence and behaviour.

Why Choose RSS Infrastructure for Surveys for Protected Species

Choosing the right environmental partner becomes crucial when embarking on a project that demands specialist surveys for protected species. At RSS Infrastructure, our commitment extends beyond mere compliance with regulatory requirements; it is about shaping a sustainable future.

Embracing a collaborative approach, we ensure that every project represents a stride towards our collective goal — harmonising development needs with environmental and biodiversity preservation.

Our comprehensive ecology services include Habitat Surveys, Protected Species Surveys, Preliminary Ecological Assessments and Environmental Impact Assessments.

Combined with our consultative approach, these services offer a holistic and effective solution to ecological challenges across various sectors.

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. State of Nature 2023 Report
2. 7 of the Most Endangered Species in the UK in 2023

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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