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 has undertaken NVC surveys throughout the British Isles. In 2017 we undertook surveys in Gwynedd, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Cheshire. 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 September. 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.

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. There may be additional charges for preparing a detailed vegetation map in ArcGIS or surveying with a drone.

Cheshire Ecology Ltd. has considerable experience of carrying out NVC surveys. The surveys are usually supervised by Martin Page, who has a PhD in plant ecology and was a contributor to the original NVC.