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Long-Term Ecosystem Research in Europe

UK's biggest ever Countryside Survey: Results published

The results of the biggest and most comprehensive survey of Britain’s countryside and its natural resources have been published in a new report by the Countryside Survey partnership.
UK's biggest ever Countryside Survey: Results published

The Countryside Survey 2007 report

The results identify how the main features of the countryside, including fields, woods, ponds, heath and moorland areas, as well as linear features such as hedges and streams, have changed.  They show how numbers of plant species have responded to changing land use, how habitat quality and vegetation condition has altered for key habitats and how Britain’s soils are recovering from the effects of acid pollutants.

Countryside Survey 2007 is the culmination of several years of hard work carried out by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH). CEH's involvement spanned initial training of field surveyors, through managing and undertaking the field survey itself, to more recent data processing, analysis and report writing.

Defra and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) commissioned the £10 million survey – the fifth since 1978 – on behalf of the partnership of governments, departments and agencies in the UK.

Dr Peter Carey from CEH and lead author of the Countryside Survey 2007 report, said the overriding message from the 2007 results is that previous intensive management of the countryside has relaxed over the last 30 years, particularly during the nine years since the last survey.

"The end result for biodiversity is a complex pattern of winners and losers, " he continued. "Countryside Survey results demonstrate how the vegetation, soils and freshwaters of the British countryside change over time in response to the way we use the land and also other factors such as pollution and weather patterns. "

A team of 80 specially trained scientists from CEH carried out the survey of 591 randomly selected one-kilometre square sites in England, Scotland and Wales during the summer of 2007. A complementary survey was carried out in Northern Ireland at the same time.

The scientists conducted an in-depth study of the habitats, soils and landscape features in each one-kilometre square, and recorded plants in a number of vegetation plots. For the first time they used specially developed electronic recording tools and web-enabled data systems to improve the efficiency of data collection. Many of the same sites have been monitored for each survey since 1978, but additional sites have been added in each survey to improve estimates of change in specific geographical areas.

The long-term data gathered should help answer questions about changes in the countryside, such as the number of species on arable land, increases and decreases in numbers of particular plant species, the length and condition of hedgerows, the condition of freshwater habitats and the effects of air pollution on vegetation and soils.


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