National Vegetation Classification (NVC) surveys are normally specified for major infrastructure projects, such as wind farms, new trunk roads, gas pipeline installations, open-cast coalmines and power stations. They are usually carried out to provide baseline information for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
Cheshire Ecology carries out NVC surveys throughout the British Isles. In 2013 we undertook surveys in Snowdonia, Yorkshire and Northumberland. Our reports are comprehensive and written so that they are intelligible to the layman. Depending upon the habitat NVC surveys can usually be carried out from late April to the end of August. Mown grasslands, such as hay meadows and roadside verges, can only be surveyed in the spring and the summer, when they are mown.
There is no quick way to carry out a detailed NVC survey. They often take several days to complete and the identification of lower plants such as Sphagnum moss can take additional time. If you're unsure whether you need an NVC survey please click on this link to download a free guide entitled What is an NVC Survey?
The plant communities in an NVC survey are usually determined by using a combination of experience and the published descriptions in British Plant Communities (Rodwell, 1998-2000). Less experienced ecologists may rely upon computer software to determine the plant communities, which can result in the vegetation being mis-identified. An incorrectly identified plant will be obvious to an experienced botanist and failure to correctly identify plants can lead to the report being challenged at a public enquiry. It is therefore important to employ someone who can carry out the survey correctly.
NVC surveys require the identification of all of the plants in the relevé (quadrat), including non-flowering grasses, sedges, rushes, mosses, liverworts and lichens. Surveyors will normally record a number of relevés during an NVC survey. Relevés are normally square in shape, but can be rectangular where the vegetation is located along a linear feature, such as a road (see below). There may be an additional charge for preparing a detailed vegetation map, showing the distribution of the plant communities.