Handbook For Phase 1 Habitat Survey

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JNCC Handbook 2010.qxd30/03/201010:03Page 1Handbook for Phase 1habitat surveyA technique for environmental audit

JNCC Handbook 2010.qxd17/03/201007:05Page 3Handbook for Phase 1 habitat survey- a technique for environmental auditRevised reprint 2010 JNCC 1993, 2003, 2004, 2007(2), 2010

JNCC Handbook 2010.qxd17/03/201007:05Page 4Preface - 2010 editionThe Phase 1 habitat classification and methodology, as published originally by the Nature ConservancyCouncil in 1990 and reprinted with minor revisions by JNCC, has been widely used throughout Britain for adiverse range of purposes. It has largely stood the test of time, and continues to be used as the standard'phase 1' technique for habitat survey across the UK.The responsibilities of the former Nature Conservancy Council are now held by the three country agencies,Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Countryside Council for Wales, with JNCC nowmaintaining common standards across the UK.Only a few minor changes have been made for the 2010 edition of the handbook. Appendix 9 provides acompendium of the main changes and developments since 1990. JNCC has no plans for furtherdevelopment of the Phase 1 standard methodology.

Minor corrections to the JNCC Handbook for Phase1 habitat survey - a technique for environmentalaudit (2010 reprint)Correction to text on page 49After the text on Hedgerow with trees (J2.3), it should say:Native species-rich hedges (J2.1.1, J2.2.1, J2.3.1). These represent examples ofJ2.1, J2.2 or J2.3 that are composed moreover of native shrub/tree species, with arelatively high plant species-richness, and a mostly undisturbed hedge bottom flora.Species-poor hedges (J2.1.2, J2.2.2. J2.3.2). These represent examples of J2.1,J2.2 or J2.3 that are composed moreover of non-native shrub/tree species, with arelatively low plant species-richness, and/or a disturbed hedge bottom flora.And it should say Fence (J2.4) rather than Species-rich hedges (J2.4)[this aligns the text to the codes shown in Appendix 1 and 2]Minor correction to text on page 59, Appendix 1J2.3 should read hedges with trees rather than hedges and treesMinor correction to text on page 63, Appendix 2J2.1.1, J2.2.1, J2.3.1 should read native species-rich rather than species-richJNCC, February 2016

JNCC Handbook 2010.qxd17/03/201007:05Page 5ContentsPagePart 1 Operational guidelines1Introduction1. a Phase 1 survey2.1Choice of survey system2.2Use of aerial photography and satellite imagery2.3Choice of scale for mapping2.4Use of existing information2.5Use of public appeals2.6Survey preparation2.7Staffing requirements2.8Selection and training of surveyors2.9Equipment and office requirements2.10Transport ld and office procedures3.1Fieldwork organisation3.2Mapping in the field3.3Preparation of the final map3.4Reproduction of habitat maps3.5Measurement and analysis of habitat areas3.6Sampling procedures3.7Area estimation by the line-intercept method3.8Digitisation3.9Accuracy3.10Interpretation of Phase 1 survey maps3.11Evaluation3.12Use of hierarchical alphanumeric habitat codes161616161818191919202021224Urban surveys4. the colour code mapping system5.1Use of colour5.2Additional codes2626266Target notes6. of target notesTarget note contentTarget note formatGeneral descriptions27272727287Data storage7. productsHabitat mapsHabitat area dataTarget notes2929292929History of Phase 1 surveyRationale of Phase 1 surveyOutline of methodology for Phase 1 surveyThe purpose of Phase 1 surveyChoice of scaleTarget notesHabitat classificationSurvey procedurePhase 2 survey77788

JNCC Handbook 2010.qxd17/03/201007:05Page 68The survey report309Comparison of Phase 1 survey classification with other classifications9.1The SSSI habitat mapping scheme and the NCC/RSNCclassification9.2The Draft Phase 1 Habitat Mapping Manual9.3The National Vegetation Classification31313233Part 2 Field Manual351Habitat classification and coding.372Habitat d and scrubGrassland and marshTall herb and fernHeathlandMireSwamp, marginal and inundationOpen waterCoastlandRock exposure and pendices1Phase survey habitat classification, hierarchical alphanumeric referencecodes and mapping colour codes.532Habitat codes for use on monochrome field maps and fair maps613Dominant species codes644Key words and status categories for target notes675Hypothetical examples of target notes706Standard recording forms717The NCC/RSNC habitat classification758Relationship between Phase 1 habitat categories and National VegetationClassification Communities in British Plant Communities Volumes 1-5779Technical developments and other changes since 1990 - key points79Additional references for Appendices 8 and 9 only80

JNCC Handbook 2010.qxd17/03/201007:05Page 7Part 1Operational guidelines

JNCC Handbook 2010.qxd17/03/201007:05Page 8

JNCC Handbook 2010.qxd117/03/201007:05Page 9IntroductionThis manual presents a standardised system forclassifying and mapping wildlife habitats in allparts of Great Britain, including urban areas. Themanual provides information on the planning andexecution of habitat surveys and is based on theexperience of a large number of surveys whichhave been carried out in the past decade. It ishoped that this publication will facilitate the surveyof the remaining areas of Britain. It would be ofgreat benefit to nature conservation and todevelopment planning if every local authority werein possession of a Phase 1 habitat survey and if acomprehensive Phase 1 survey database existedfor each area of the country.has been used as the basis of most of the Phase 1surveys of the late 1980s in England, Wales andScotland.The present manual is a revision of the 1986draft and introduces further revisions of habitatdefinitions, mainly clarifying what has becomeaccepted practice in existing survey but alsointroducing some changes in areas of ambiguityand confusion. In particular, the mires section hasbeen revised, the dune classification has beensimplified and the rather large semi-improvedgrassland category has been split into two, morefunctionally convenient, units. The classificationcovers the full range of terrestrial and intertidalhabitats, but no attempt has been made to coversub-tidal habitats.The Nature Conservancy Council (NCC) hasplayed a leading role in devising andimplementing standardised methods of biologicalsurvey and the NCC Phase 1 survey methodologyhas been widely used throughout Britain. It is veryimportant that a standardised system is used andthat surveys are carried out to a consistent level ofdetail and accuracy, so that the results of onesurvey may be compared with those of anotherand maps and statistical data may be readilyinterpreted.1.1Since 1982 all versions of the NCC Phase 1habitat mapping system have been based on thesame hierarchical classification system and arethus, in most respects, compatible with oneanother1.2Rationale of Phase 1 surveyThe aim of Phase 1 survey is to provide,relatively rapidly, a record of the semi-naturalvegetation and wildlife habitat over large areas ofcountryside. The methodology presented in thismanual is applicable both to surveys of specifichabitats, such as grasslands or woodlands, and tosurveys of the whole countryside, in which everyparcel of land is classified and recorded. However,this manual is written largely with general surveysin mind, because these are more usual.History of Phase 1 surveyThe origins of Phase 1 survey go back to the1970s, when a system was devised for rapidmapping of wildlife habitats over large areas ofcountryside. The method was used originally insouth-east Scotland and later in Cumbria and WestYorkshire (NCC 1979a, 1979b).After the passing of the Wildlife andCountryside Act 1981, this system was modifiedand extended for use in mapping habitats on Sitesof Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) (NCC 1982,1983a). The SSSI habitat mapping system wasconsidered to be too detailed for use in Phase 1surveys of the wider countryside and a simplified,but compatible, version was produced for thispurpose (NCC 1983b). This version has beenwidely used for large-scale habitat surveys such asthe Phase 1 Survey of Cumbria (NCC 1986a, Kelly& Perry 1990), although a number of large-scalesurveys initiated before its publication (forexample Somerset and Dorset - NCC 1983c,1983d) used the full SSSI mapping system.The habitat classification presented here isbased principally on vegetation, augmented byreference to topographic and substrate features,particularly where vegetation is not the dominantcomponent of the habitat. Vegetation is relativelysimple to observe, identify and record and canthus be surveyed fairly rapidly over large areaswithout much difficulty. Because most animals aremobile, fugitive and small, they are often muchmore difficult to observe and record in the field, socomprehensive, large-scale faunal surveys are nota practical proposition.The nature and condition of the vegetationembodies information about many of the living andnon-living components of the environment. A studyof the vegetation can thus provide an effectivemeans of classifying and surveying habitats.A draft manual on habitat survey was producedin 1986 (NCC 1986b) and this afforded anopportunity to clarify a number of habitatdefinitions and to make some minor changes inthe habitat classification and coding. Althoughunpublished, this draft was widely circulated andIdeally, a Phase 1 habitat survey should befollowed up by a Phase 2 survey. This defines the7

JNCC Handbook 2010.qxd17/03/201007:05Page 101.4vegetation of selected areas more precisely interms of its plant communities, preferably asdefined by the National Vegetation Classification,(Rodwell in prep.) and may include surveys ofanimal species and communities. Phase 2 surveycan be used to describe the range of variationpresent for a particular habitat, thus indicating therepresentation required in the SSSI series. Thesites at which Phase 2 surveys are to be targetedcan be identified from the Phase 1 surveyinformation. Occasionally it is desirable to carryout Phase 2 survey concurrently with Phase 1. Afurther stage in survey - Phase 3 - involves an evenmore detailed survey of the extent and distributionof plant and animal species on sites. The objectiveis to produce detailed information on thefrequency or abundance of communities andspecies for site management and monitoringpurposes. Information may be gathered onaspects such as the population size of individualspecies or their reproductive capacity.1.3The purpose of Phase 1 surveyNature conservation entails the conservation ofwild plants and animals and natural and seminatural habitats. It cannot be carried out effectivelywithout a knowledge of the nature of these habitatsand of their location, extent and distribution. Thepurpose of Phase 1 survey is to provide thisinformation.The availability of Phase 1 survey information inthe form of coloured maps, target notes andstatistics has been much appreciated by plannersand conservationists and, where available, makesan almost daily contribution to the work of natureconservation. Even sites of relatively limitedconservation interest may nevertheless be ofstrategic importance to nature conservation, actingfor instance, as wildlife corridors or 'steppingstones'. These areas, as well as sites with moreobvious wildlife value, and the relationshipsbetween them, can be clearly seen on the Phase 1survey maps.Outline of methodology for Phase 1surveyThe information provided by Phase 1 surveyhas many uses for conservationists. It provides anobjective basis for determining which sites warrantPhase 2 surveys and which sites deserveconsideration for protection as SSSIs, Local NatureReserves, local trust wildlife sites, etc. It gives aclearly defined baseline for monitoring change andembodies the information needed for thecompilation of a habitat database for use in theconservation of the countryside.Briefly, the method of Phase 1 survey is asfollows. Ideally every parcel of land in the entiresurvey area is visited by a trained surveyor and thevegetation is mapped on to Ordnance Surveymaps, usually at a scale of 1:10,000, in terms ofsome ninety specified habitat types, usingstandard colour codes. In practice much of themapping can be carried out from public rights ofway, using binoculars at relatively short ranges toidentify the vegetation. Aerial photographs mayalso be useful, especially in urban and in uplandareas, as an adjunct to ground survey.Local authorities find Phase 1 survey of greatvalue because it provides vital information neededin the formulation of policy, applied, for instance, instructure, local, subject and development plans orindividual planning applications. The possessionof a Phase 1 survey report allows planners torespond quickly to planning applications. It alsostrengthens the attitude of authorities, because thestatistics it provides can be used to support thecase for conservation of threatened habitats,especially in work connected with appeals. Theinformation helps in the production and evaluationof environmental impact assessments and in thedevelopment of countryside strategies. Finally,Phase 1 survey can save time and money byproviding knowledge that will enable planners anddevelopers to avoid the controversy involved inenvironmental issues.The use of colour codes on the final habitatmaps allows rapid visual assessment of the extentand distribution of different habitat types. Furtherinformation is gained from the use of dominantspecies codes within many habitat types and fromdescriptive 'target notes' which give a brief accountof particular areas of interest. The target notes arean essential part of Phase 1 survey and mayprovide the basis for selection of sites for Phase 2survey and for decision-making in relation toconservation in the wider countryside.Once mapped, the habitat areas are measuredon the maps and statistics compiled on the extentand distribution of each habitat type. Thesestatistics can then be held on computers.The early completion of nationwide surveys ofbiological features, for the purpose of identifyingall those areas which qualify for protection andwildlife management, is a priority objective inNature conservation in Great Britain (NCC, 1984).Phase 1 survey is the most suitable vehicleavailable for accomplishing this taskThe end products of a Phase 1 survey are (a)habitat maps, (b) target notes and (c) statistics.Ideally, the results should be supported by adescriptive and interpretative report. A descriptivesummary for each Ordnance Survey map sheethas been found useful in some circumstances.8

JNCC Handbook 2010.qxd22.117/03/201007:05Page 11Planning a Phase 1 surveyChoice of survey systemconifer plantations (or vice-versa); picking out undeveloped sites in urban areas;It is generally considered that no real choiceexists as to the method of collecting Phase 1survey information since there is no satisfactoryalternative to the inspection of each habitat unit inthe field by a trained surveyor. The use of remotesensing techniques such as aerial photographyand satellite imagery would appear to be a muchmore cost-effective way of surveying large areas ofland but these methods have not yet been provedcapable of distinguishing the full range of habitatcategories required for Phase 1 survey in Britain.Although further technological improvements may,in time, achieve this capability, remote sensingmethods will probably never be able to supply thelevel of detail available from ground survey andwill, in any case, always rely on ground survey forverification.2.2 determining the boundaries between adjacenthabitats where these do not correspond to anyfeature on the Ordnance Survey map (forexample a boundary between blanket bog andacid grassland in the uplands); checking the alignments of recent road-buildingdevelopments, although this is probably bestachieved using plans from the council highwaydepartment.The value of aerial photographs is limitedprimarily by the quality and age of thephotographs and by scale. The ease ofinterpretation also depends on the season of yearand time of day that they were taken, becauseshadows greatly alter the look of vegetation. Winterphotographs can be difficult to interpret becauseof the lack of vegetation cover.Use of aerial photography andsatellite imageryAt a scale of 1:5,000, species of broadleavedtrees can be distinguished by crown shape andevery habitat feature of sufficient size can berecognised using a stereoscope. Distinctions canbe made between most of the habitats recognisedin this manual, although the grassland type(calcareous, neutral, acidic) would be inferredfrom local knowledge rather than from the aerialphotograph itself. Topography can be clearly seenusing a stereoscope and this too helps todistinguish features such as unimprovedcalcareous grassland on slopes too steep to'improve'. Certain species (for example of Nardus,Molinia and Juncus) are easily distinguished onaerial photographs and this can help in identifyinggrassland types in upland areas.Although aerial photography is no substitute forfieldwork in Phase 1 survey, the availability ofcontemporary aerial photographic coverage at asuitable scale (from 1:5,000 to 1:12,000) cangreatly increase the speed and facility with whichfield survey is carried out. Aerial photographs,preferably in colour, should be procured whereavailable.It must be stressed that some habitat types aredifficult or impossible to distinguish on aerialphotographs and that habitats which areuncommon and of small extent, and thereforelikely to be of high conservation value, may beoverlooked.Aerial photographic survey is a useful means ofmonitoring changes in the distribution andabundance of specific habitat types such asbroadleaved woodland, hedges or heathland.Studies carried out using the aerial photography ofthe 1940s and 1970s indicate the scale of habitatloss during that period and form the basis of theNational Countryside Monitoring Scheme (NCC1980, 1987, 1988).Aerial photography has been found to be mostuseful for: providing an overview of an area prior to survey; mapping habitats in areas of restricted ordifficult access, where these may be directlycompared with similar habitats in theneighbouring area;The two main types of satellite imagery whichcan be used most effectively for habitat mappingare LANDSAT Thematic Mapper (LANDSAT TM)images, with 30 m resolution capability, and theSPOT system, which has resolution capabilitiesdown to 10 m. However, neither system providesimages of the quality needed for the whole rangeof habitats mapped at Phase 1. These techniquesproduce images corresponding to the reflectance picking out areas of high arable intensity; determining the boundaries of well definedhabitat units which are not apparent from theOrdnance Survey map (for example woodlands,plantation, fellings, quarries, housing estatesand new industrial development); pinpointing areas of broadleaved woodland in9

JNCC Handbook 2010.qxd17/03/201007:05Page 12recorded in certain wavelengths of light, includingthe infra-red band, enabling vegetation to bedistinguished from buildings, etc. In the SPOTsystem, despite the greater spatial resolution, thespectral resolution is less good than withLANDSAT TM. However, texture is more obviouswith SPOT images. No species list can becompiled. Because remote sensing techniquesdepend on intensity of reflection, certain habitattypes such as scrub may be overlooked if the areaof scrub is scattered over grassland, since eachpixel of the image displays an average intensity forthe vegetation present. In this respect, it shouldalso be noted that small habitat areas (less than 10x 10 m for SPOT and less than 30 x 30 m forLANDSAT TM) may be overlooked entirely.

2 Planning a Phase 1 survey 9 2.1 Choice of survey system 9 2.2 Use of aerial photography and satellite imagery 9 2.3 Choice of scale for mapping 11 2.4 Use of existing information 11 2.5 Use of public appeals 11 2.6 Survey preparation 11 2.7 Staffing requirements 12 2.8 Selection and training of s