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Lisa Norton, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Repeat, spatially-intensive survey: vegetation trends from GB Countryside Surveys


Countryside Survey is a national audit of the UK countryside based on a stratified random sampling design which has been carried out five times since 1978. Whilst initial surveys focused on the scientific validity of the approach, the increasing value of the data to policy customers has led to the survey being evolved to fit policy requirements and a shift in the funding which reflects the interests of those policy customers. For the most recent survey in 2007, NERC was the primary funder with contributions from English, Scottish and Welsh government bodies making up just under half of the funding.

CS surveys a number of different aspects of the environment including soils, vegetation, habitats and landscape features, ponds and headwater streams. The nature of the data collected and the extent of the survey have evolved in response to policy and scientific requirements, with the most recent survey requiring over 70 surveyors for 6 months. Challenges faced as a result of changing policy agendas and changes in governance will be discussed alongside the benefits of a long term approach to monitoring. Results from CS will be presented to illustrate how CS is able to contribute to science questions of relevance to society, concentrating on land use change. The way in which CS is communicated to policy makers and a wider audience will be presented, highlighting the data accessibility now possible through the countryside survey website (, the UK and individual country level reporting. Finally the talk will concentrate on the Integrated Assessment work carried out post CS2007 which explored the potential uses of CS data for providing information on ecosystem service provision at a national scale. This work provides a marker for the future direction of CS and the opportunities which exist through integration with other ecosystem response data and data on drivers of change.


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