Blackthorn Ecology is a national leader in conducting ecological surveys at all spatial scales. Our Director, Dr George F Smith, is the lead author of the Heritage Council’s Best Practice Guidance for Habitat Survey and Mapping. We also specialise in detailed botanical surveys, including vegetation survey and analysis and rare species surveys. Blackthorn Ecology caters for all types of ecological survey service by collaborating with our network of associates to supplement our in-house expertise as required. See our Projects for examples of the breadth and quality of work we do.
Site-based Habitat Survey
A thorough habitat survey of a site proposed for development, conservation management or other use is a fundamental piece of ecological information. Blackthorn Ecology has extensive experience in carrying out site-based habitat surveys to inform Appropriate Assessments, Ecological Impact Assessments, habitat management plans, and ecological research. In the Republic of Ireland, our habitat surveys follow the Heritage Council’s habitat classification scheme (Fossitt, 2000) and of course the Best Practice Guidance. In Northern Ireland, our habitat surveys follow the JNCC Phase 1 habitat survey methodology. We supplement these basic methods with other, more specialist methodologies where required. For example, we conduct River Habitat Surveys according to the Environment Agency (2003) methodology. All our habitat maps are prepared with GIS aided by using GPS and GPS-enabled photography in the field.
Large-scale Habitat Survey
Blackthorn Ecology is also a national leader in habitat surveys of large areas. These include surveys of towns to inform Local Area Plans and surveys of particular habitat types at the county or larger scale. This type of survey is vital for strategic biodiversity conservation, ensuring that the proper framework is in place to meet objectives under Local Authority or Regional development plans or under national environmental plans. For this type of survey, we at Blackthorn Ecology use our GIS expertise to maximise the value of information that already exists in scattered survey reports and databases. Following desk studies and discussions with knowledgeable locals, we target the most important or the most threatened areas for special attention during field survey. Large scale habitat surveys are carried out in line with the Heritage Council’s Best Practice Guidance for Habitat Survey and Mapping.
We carry out detailed surveys of flowering plants, ferns, mosses and liverworts for all terrestrial and freshwater habitats in Ireland. We conduct surveys and monitoring of rare and protected plant species. We also carry out quantitative surveys of vegetation to inform detailed conservation evaluations or provide baseline data for habitat management or ecological research. Blackthorn Ecology has a high level of expertise in analysis of complex vegetation data, including multivariate techniques such as ordination or cluster analysis.
Blackthorn Ecology conducts wildlife surveys of protected species, including smooth newt and common frog, freshwater crayfish, badger and other terrestrial mammals. We can supplement our experience with that of our associates so that we can provide our clients with the wildlife surveys required to meet their needs. Blackthorn Ecology is familiar with the conservation status and ecological requirements of species groups such as birds and bats and can advise our clients about potential constraints and survey requirements at an early stage in the project.