Environmental survey: the need for a specialist study

On a larger, more ecologically diverse site, there may be a requirement for specialist environmental survey work prior to a planning application; over and above the usual Phase 1 habitat or protected species survey work. This may follow a specific request from a local authority or a statutory agency such as Natural England, and could include the following:
  • National Vegetation Classification (NVC)
  • Lower plant species – mosses, liverworts and lichens
  • Hedges
  • Invertebrates – terrestrial
  • Invertebrates – aquatic
  • Invasive plants
These more specialist environmental survey studies can include detailed habitat classification and evaluation using a survey technique known as the National Vegetation Classification (NVC) which can help establish the ecological value of vegetation-types prior to impact assessment, as well as water quality work using invertebrate indicators, or possibly surveys of lower plants / terrestrial invertebrates. We can provide expert specialist surveyors to deliver these types of studies in a timely and cost-effective way and in line with national guidance.

National Vegetation Classification (NVC)

Phase 1 Habitat Survey may not always be appropriate as a baseline vegetation survey. Where more detailed information is needed (for example where nationally important habitat-types are encountered) we can undertake an environmental survey based upon the National Vegetation Classification (NVC). By sampling and mapping the various vegetation-types on a site we can provide a detailed overview of habitat complexity and compare plant communities, including those of conservation interest, with local, regional and national types, as well as gaining an insight into plant community origins and the past management activities that might have influenced their present composition.


Where proposed development works could affect hedges we can undertake environmental surveys to inform a Hedgerow Regulations assessment using a survey technique based upon the Hedgerow Evaluation and Grading System (HEGS).

Rare plants

We can undertake detailed environmental surveys of botanical diversity and abundance, to:
  • determine whether any rare plant species are present on a site
  • provide a baseline against which to monitor change
  • inform an assessment of a sites’ conservation value and
  • help guide appropriate site management


The majority of British invertebrates are not protected by law, however entomological studies are periodically requested by statutory agencies as part of impact assessments - especially where the aquatic environment may be affected or where potentially invertebrate-rich ‘brownfield sites’ are proposed for development. Environmental survey techniques for terrestrial invertebrates depend on the nature of the site and the species or group under study. A thorough survey can involve a combination of sampling on several occasions in spring, summer and autumn. We also undertake surveys of aquatic habitats and have experience of a wide range of appropriate sampling techniques and monitoring methods.

Invasive plants

Non-native, invasive plants are a significant threat to the integrity of natural ecosystems and can involve significant time and expense to treat. It is vital therefore that a developer knows the location and extent of invasive species on their site – ideally well before a project starts. The most commonly encountered invasive plant species in the UK is Japanese knotweed, followed by Himalayan balsam along water courses and giant hogweed, the leaves of which are toxic to the touch. Other occasionally encountered invasive plants include the aquatic species New Zealand swamp stonecrop, water fern and parrot’s feather. Environmental survey work on invasive plant species would focus on mapping the distribution of such species within a site. We can also advise on the legislative position and most appropriate methods of eradication.

Contact us for specialist advice

If you require an environmental survey, or have any questions about the process, Andrew McCarthy Ecology can advise you. Call us on 01392 833345 or email info@amecology.co.uk.