Ecology

Overview

We offer a wide range of complementary services combining specialist ecological survey work with practical advice. Our work ranges from large public infrastructure projects such as wind farms and road schemes to housing projects and coastal surveys. Our team of ecologists is licensed to carry out protected species surveys for bats, great crested newts, water voles, otters etc. using the latest techniques and technology.

honeybeeCustomers for ecological services also benefit from Environment Systems’ advanced remote sensing skills which enhance ecological investigation through systematic wide area mapping and monitoring. This together with a strong capability modelling species distribution, connectivity networks and statistical analysis, this has created a deep understanding of the role of ecosystem services in the protection and enhancement of biodiversity.

Our comprehensive understanding of UK wildlife legislation and planning policy has helped get numerous projects off the ground. As experienced wildlife consultants, we are used to dealing with the legal and commercial issues surrounding protected species. We guarantee a high quality service, with a strong focus on our clients who rely on us to manage their projects smoothly and produce the highest quality outputs to fulfil their requirements.

Services

Environment Systems provides a wide range of services including:

Preliminary Ecological Assessment
A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) forms the bedrock of any ecological site survey. Our approach to a PEA is designed to deliver a rapid high quality response to clients when timing is critical.

Our approach includes a field survey by one of our trained and experienced surveyors to identify and map habitats in accordance with the Handbook for Phase 1 Habitat Survey (JNCC, 2010) and is extended to identify risk habitats including built structures for protected and priority species. The field survey is combined with a desk study to collate information on nearby designated sites and records of species of conservation concern including legally protected species which could be impacted by development proposals.

We provide our clients with a technical report that is prepared using the CIEEM Guidelines for Preliminary Ecological Appraisal and BS42020:2013 Biodiversity Code of practice for planning and development.

  • Hedgerow surveys
  • National Vegetation Classification (NVC) surveys
  • River Corridor and River Habitat surveys
  • Invasive plant surveys including Himalayan balsam, Japanese knotweed and Giant Hogweed etc.
  • Lower plant surveys, including bryophytes, lichens and freshwater algae
Protected species surveys, including:
Protected Species Surveys are a legal requirement if initial surveys suggest that any of the species listed in Article 12 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (Habitats Regulations 2010) and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) is present on a development site.
  • Badgers
    Badgers and their setts are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. It is an offence to kill or injure them or interfere with a sett. Our experienced ecologists can advise and carry out all aspects of badger conservation and protection, from thorough field surveys, to mitigation work.
  • Bats
    All UK bat species are protected by law and it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly kill, injure, handle or capture a bat, or to damage, destroy or obstruct any place that a bat uses for shelter or protection. We are fully licensed to undertake bat surveys across the UK. We offer a full range of bat surveys and can guide you through all stages of the process. All our surveys are in line with current guidelines from statutory bodies, ensuring methodology is in line with best practice.
  • Birds
    We undertake all types of bird surveys during both the breeding and non-breeding seasons. Techniques used include breeding bird surveys, wintering bird surveys, common bird census (CBC), vantage point surveys (VPs), point counts, transects, radio-tracking, wing tagging, Wetland Bird Surveys (WeBS), Schedule 1 Raptor Surveys and Brown and Shepherd methodology for upland birds. We also undertake specialist surveys for individual species, such as nightjar, peregrine falcon, red kite and other protected and priority species of bird. All ecosystems are covered; terrestrial, freshwater, intertidal and marine.
  • Dormice
    Hazel dormice are fully protected under UK and European law. It is an offence to injure, kill, capture or disturb them, or to damage, destroy or obstruct their habitats. Our team of specialist associates can advise on and carry out all aspects of dormouse conservation and protection, from thorough and licensed field surveys to mitigation work, applications for European Protected Species Mitigation licensing and habitat enhancement.
  • Great crested newts
    Great crested newts are fully protected under UK and European law. It is an offence to injure, kill, capture or disturb them, or to damage, destroy or obstruct any places used for shelter and protection. Our team of specialist associates hold all the necessary licenses to carry out full great crested newt surveys across Wales and England using a range of survey techniques, including bottle trapping, torching, egg searches and drift fencing. We can also provide eDNA sampling techniques to enable analysis of a pond from a single visit, saving the client time and money.
  • Otters
    Otters are protected under UK and European law. It is an offence to kill, capture, injure or disturb them, or to damage or destroy a breeding or resting place, or to obstruct access to their resting or sheltering places. Otter surveys can take place at any time of the year but can be affected by vegetation growth and the weather. Our ecologists undertake habitat suitability assessments to determine the likely presence of otters and target further surveys. We can advise on and carry out all aspects of otter conservation and protection.
  • Red squirrels
    Red squirrels are fully protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). Under this UK law it is illegal to intentionally take, kill or injure, intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy disturb or obstruct its place of shelter or protection. We can advise and carry out all aspects of red squirrel survey for conservation and protection projects.
  • Reptiles
    All reptiles are protected under UK law making it illegal to intentionally kill or injure a common reptile (slow worm, common lizard, grass snake and adder). We can advise and carry out all aspects of reptile survey and mitigation.
  • Water voles
    Water voles are protected under UK law making it an offence to deliberately capture, injure or kill them, or to recklessly damage, disturb, destroy or obstruct their burrows. Our ecologists can advise on all aspects of water vole conservation from survey timings, river corridor management and mitigation.
Protected species license applications and advice
Many animals and plants are legally protected by UK and European legislation. In some instances impacts on these species can be avoided by making work or schedule changes but when offences are unavoidable a license may be required to enable the works to proceed. Licenses are issued by the relevant statutory authority: Natural Resource Wales, Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage. Environment Systems works closely with our clients and relevant authorities to ensure that the process runs smoothly without delays to the project.
  • Ecological Impact Assessments (EcIA)
  • Ecological input into Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Site interpretation and ground truthing
  • Habitat management planning
  • Expert witness
  • BREEAM & CEEQUAL Assessments

A number of staff are full members of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management and are Chartered Environmentalists. Our practitioners hold survey and development licenses for species protected by European law.

Codes of Practice

Environment Systems adheres to established codes of professional practice including:

  • BS42020: 2013 Biodiversity Code of practice in planning and development.
  • Guidelines Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (CIEEM, 2013)
  • Guidelines for Ecological Impact Assessment in the UK and Ireland (CIEEM, 2016)
  • Bat Surveys for Professional Ecologists: Good Practice Guidelines (3rd Edition)
  • Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the United Kingdom Advice Note series (www.arguk.org)
  • BS5837:2012 Trees in relation to design, demolition and construction – Recommendations
  • ©Chris Griffin
  • ©Chris Griffin
  • ©Chris Griffin

Ecology Calendar

This calendar is a guide for the best times to carry out ecological surveys for particular species. Mouseover the text in the left hand column to find out more about the specific species’ surveys. To download a PDF version click here.

SPECIES January February March April May June July August September October November December
Phase 1 only (sub-optimal) Phase 1 and NVC Phase 1 only (sub-optimal)
Badgers Sub-optimal sett / bait surveys Bait marking and sett surveys Sub-optimal bait marking and sett surveys Sett surveys Sub-optimal sett / bait surveys
Bats Hibernation survey Sub-optimal activity survey Summer roost emergence + re-entry and activity surveys Sub-optimal activity survey Hibernation survey
Initial assessments are possible all year round
Birds Winter non-breeding survey Breeding birds / Migrant species surveys Breeding birds surveys Low activity / sub-optimal surveys for all birds Migrant species surveys Winter bird surveys
Dormice Gnawed hazlenut search Nest tube survey from April to November, Gnawed hazel nut search – best from September to December
Great Crested Newts No survey (Newts hibernating) Pond surveys for adults / terrestial survey / egg surveys from April to mid-June / larvae surveys from mid-May Habitat larvae surveys Habitat surveys No survey (Newts hibernating)
Habitat Suitability Index of ponds can be carried out year round
Otters Can be surveyed all year around (subject to vegetation density and weather conditions)
Red Squirrels Scoping survey and drey counts Feeding sign survey and hair tube survey Sub-optimal Feeding sign survey and hair tube survey Scoping survey and drey counts
Reptiles No survey (Reptiles hibernating) Peak survey months April, May, June Surveys temperature dependent (sub-optimal) Peak survey month Limited activity No survey (Reptiles hibernating)
Water Voles Low activity Initial habitat survey Habitat and field signs / activity surveys. May be limited by vegetation cover and weather conditions Initial habitat survey Low activity
Whiteclawed Crayfish Habitat suitability assessment only Manual torch, searchlight counts and trapping Habitat suitabiity only