There are many different types of ecology survey, some are generalist, broadly covering areas and obtaining baseline knowledge of a site whereas others are specialist, often focusing on one species or a small group of species.
Generally, the first ecology survey carried out on a new site with plans for development is a preliminary ecological appraisal (sometimes called a phase 1 habitat survey). This type of survey can be carried out at any time of the year. This survey gives the surveyor an overall idea of the site, what habitats are present and where, what animals could be or are present, and if there are any notable features, such as rare plants, invasive species and animal signs.
The phase 1 survey forms part of a preliminary ecological appraisal (PEA) report which includes mapping of the site and a desk study. A desk study involves a local data search to identify records of protected species and sites within 2km. Local records are submitted by members of the public and volunteers so they are not an exhaustive list of everything found in the area. Therefore, even if there are no local records for a certain species it doesn’t mean they are not there. The desk study is used in conjunction with the information gathered in the field to form a report suitable for planning. The report gives a thorough assessment of the sites ecological importance and highlights significant habitats and species potentially present, thus informing the client whether further survey work is necessary and making pragmatic recommendations on avoidance, mitigation and enhancement.
Further survey work is sometimes undertaken to identify whether a specific species is present on site. If you have buildings on your site it is possible that a bat survey may be recommended, if there are ponds on or near to your site a great crested newt survey may be recommended and if there is suitable reptile habitat (e.g. coarse scrubby grassland) on your site it may be necessary to carry out a reptile survey.
Species specific ecology surveys cover a wide range of protected species including, badger, bat, hazel dormouse, great crested newt, reptile, water vole and otter as well as various others. Each species survey has a specific methodology and varies in the effort and equipment required and the time of day and season within which it should be undertaken. Often survey licences are required to carry out the survey and for the following mitigation measures.