A Phase 1 habitat survey is a system of mapping habitats as a baseline to further survey work and is the industry standard used by ecologists throughout the UK.
The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) has written guidance to the classification of each habitat type. This often refers to the landscape structure (e.g. pH of the soil) and the vegetation present. Each habitat type has a standard definition, an alpha-numeric code and a standardised colour scheme for the map. Target notes are used to provide additional information, or where there is a feature that can’t be mapped.
The JNCC handbook for Phase 1 habitat surveys, which explains all the codes, can be downloaded for free HERE.
What is a Phase 1 Habitat Survey used for?
The Phase 1 survey is incredibly useful to identify the habitats on site. In consultancy, we usually carry out an extended Phase 1, as part of a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal*. An extended Phase 1 doesn’t just map the habitat types, but includes additional information such as more detail on hedgerows, the potential for protected species to be on site, or a species list of the plants on site.
(*A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal or PEA is a survey that records and maps the baseline ecological conditions of a site and identifies any constraints to a development, such as the presence of protected species. From this, further survey can be recommended where necessary.)
How are they carried out?
The survey consists of a walkover survey. The site is covered by the surveyor, identifying the species on site and assigning the standard codes. The survey needs to be thorough for an extended Phase 1, with anything that may require further survey identified.
Equipment needed for the survey is minimal. An accurate map of the site and a pencil is a good start. A camera, a pair of binoculars and a compass are also invaluable. Many ecologists (including at Acorn Ecology) have taken to using digital recording devices (tablets) and apps to quickly map habitat on site.
Phase 1s are best carried out in the period April-September. This means you will be able to pick up more species, as many plants will have died back over the winter and a true species composition is harder to see.
Experience always helps with these surveys, as with all ecological surveys! Good ID skills are required. You need to know if a plant is rare/common/invasive. If you see animal tracks, do you know what they are? What are the birds on sight, and did you see them or just hear them call?
A Phase 1 survey, as part of a PEA, should be the first survey on every development site. It will identify the current ecological conditions, before any development occurs, and also flag up any potential impacts the development may have on the wildlife present on the site. It is the base on which all further surveys are built. That makes it pretty important in consultancy! Knowing how to carry out a Phase 1 Habitat Survey, and being able to understand the techniques and maps is a must for any budding ecologist. It helps to have some botany ID, but you can learn the Phase 1 technique while you build your ID skills.
Phase 1 habitat surveys, preliminary ecological appraisal and report writing all form a substantial part of the core week of our Certificate in Ecological Consultancy. They are that important, and form part of the ‘core’ knowledge you will need in consultancy.
Course: Phase 1 Habitat Survey
This introductory level course will greatly enhance your understanding of Phase 1 habitat surveys and give you confidence in carrying them out. The field experience gained will be relevant to both consultancy and conservation. Please note, this course is running in Bristol, Exeter and Guildford in 2018, and the classroom based part of the course will be the same at all venues.
Why not also do the Preliminary Ecological Appraisal Course? This will build on your Phase 1 habitat survey technique and teach you how to turn your survey findings into a comprehensive and professional report. Running in Bristol and Guildford.