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Case Studies

Local Authority & Governmental

Project Name:
Biodiversity Assessment of 12 SSSIs
Natural England
Mar 31, 2011
Biodiversity Assessment, SSSI, Favourable Conservation Status, Lichen, Bryophyte
  Summary Ecosulis applied a unique method for measuring biodiversity allowing a totally repeatable and comparable survey to be undertaken across 12 Sites of ...



Ecosulis applied a unique method for measuring biodiversity allowing a totally repeatable and comparable survey to be undertaken across 12 Sites of Special Scientific Interest on behalf of Natural England.  Future monitoring of these sites using this Biodiversity Assessment method will allow greater comparison across the sites/habitats and identification of specific conservation objectives and management prescriptions.  This assessment method is a valuable conservation management tool, which can be applied to any site and to any target group.


Project Detail

Ecosulis prepared lower plant site dossiers and favourable conditions tables for 12 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) within the East Midlands and North-West regions.  The information will be used by Natural England to inform detailed conservation objectives for each of the SSSIs.  The objectives are tailored to each site based on the features present to inform future management of the sites by Natural England and to inform consideration to plans and proposals by statutory authorities.

The Biodiversity Quality Assessment method used in this study (as developed by Ecosulis’ non-Executive Director and Scientific Advisor, Alan Feest; Feest 2006 and Feest et al. 2010, based on the Pollard and Yates butterfly survey method (1993)) provides a repeatable survey method and confident statistical baselines that may be used over time and across sites to determine biodiversity changes.  Unlike the previous surveys used to assess these sites; a method of ‘walking about’ to record presence/absence of species, this method allows relatively rapid (as it has a stop-rule) presence/absence surveys with up to 20 sampling points in a site or habitat to represent the totality of the site enabling repeatability and quantitative data collection. This Biodiversity Assessment method provides defined valuable data for assessing site/habitat condition, and in this case for assessing the favourable condition status of the SSSIs. It can also provide an estimate of the total number of species likely to be present so the efficiency of the survey can be estimated. 

Transect routes incorporating 20 sampling sites were selected. At each sampling site a 4m radius of the habitat was surveyed for ten minutes before moving on to the next sampling site. The sampling sites were chosen at places where lower plants were visually present in quantity and at locations where assemblage species were known or likely to be present.  At each sampling site, a species list was compiled along with GPS reading, a description of the habitat, notes of environmental parameters that may threaten species within the sampling point (either currently or in the future) and notes for site management.  Species were assigned a Species Conservation Value Index (SCVI) based on their rarity at the regional level. 

Site dossiers were compiled for each site. Each dossier provides the site and habitat descriptions, features of interest, condition assessment and recommendations for management. 

Species lists were input into the biodiversity quality calculator programme.  This programme is a tool used to determine the biodiversity indices, which include:  species richness (the number of species in a unit area); Chao (the estimated expected number of species within the site so the efficiency of the sampling can be determined); Simpson’s Index (the measure of even-ness of different species or dominance by a single species); density of species found within a unit area; and mean SCVI.  

In addition to the indices produced by the biodiversity quality calculator, the total number of rare species recorded at each site/habitat and the Ellenberg Nitrogen Index (the nitrophilic/nitrophobic tendencies of species. This was recorded for bryophytes only).

The indices allowed the highest quality habitats/sites to be identified and ranked in order of their biodiversity measurements; in this case, in order of species richness and the number of rare species. 



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