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Ecological Services

The following surveys are offered by the EcoAudit consultancy. We primarily conduct species and habitat surveys, which can form part of procedures such as environmental impact assessments or for ecological projects run by government bodies and NGOís such as Birdwatch Ireland. We also produce appropriate assessments (natura impact statements) for planned developments on Natura 2000 sites.

Please contact EcoAudit for more details on services available.

EcoAudit  Ecological Consultancy specialising in..

Consultancy... Nature Tourism...   Photography

rob@ecoaudit.ie
086 4004526

Golen plover

Services provided

Description

Habitat Surveys

Limestone grasslamd

Where baseline ecological information for a specific site is required in projects such as Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), a comprehensive habitat survey will provide detailed data on the terrestrial and/or aquatic species of flora and fauna present. This will highlight any species that occur which are afforded protection under Irish and European legislation and will require mitigation measures as part of the development planning process. Information will be presented in a detailed report with high quality mapping.

Bird surveys for Research Projects

Fulmars

Birds are surveyed regularly in a variety of ways by volunteers and professionals alike. As a group which are very distinctive, easily observable compared to other animals and often showing real-time changes in response to habitat and climatic variables, they are very good indicators of environmental quality.

Surveys can also highlight population declines, allowing the information gathered to be translated into action for improving their status, such as a single species that is in need of conservation measures. These types of projects are often run by non-governmental organisations such as Birdwatch Ireland or by the governmental National Parks and Wildlife Service (NWPS).

EcoAudit specialises in a range of bird surveys in habitats such as coastal cliffs and estuaries, woodlands, wetlands and uplands.

Bird Surveys for Developments

Upland windfarm

Extensive bird surveys of woodland, upland and coastal areas are needed to assess the likely impact of proposed developments, such as wind farms. In this example, bird surveys are generally carried out over a one or two year period. Several locations are chosen as Vantage Points, from which a large area of the proposed development area can be surveyed. 3 hour surveys are carried out at these vantage point once or twice a month throughout the course of the year.

At a vantage point, all larger birds that fly through a target area are timed, plotted on the map, and their height of flight recorded. These 'flight paths' provide information for the environmental impact statement on the likely collision risk of the birds with any new windfarm. Birds typically encountered include Kestrel, Peregrine, Merlin, Hen Harrier. Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Golden Plover, Whooper swans and occasionally geese. However, a note is made of all bird species encountered.

Other survey methods for different habitats include Woodland Point Counts, whereby the diversity and density of smaller birds is determined and Bird-Usage Mapping of shorebirds that can be used to determine the important feeding and roosting areas near proposed developments

Windfarms are generally believed to have two impacts on bird populations, the first being the direct impact of possible collision of birds with the turbine blades, and the second impact being the loss of habitat brought about by windfarm construction and operation, generally consisting of a couple of hundred metres around the windfarm, plus the habitat lost through road and other infrastructure. Both of these impacts can be adequately assessed through the provision of year round bird surveying, allowing planners and developers to make decisions on whether the development can continue or not.

Lepidoptera Surveys

Swallow-tailed moth

Butterflies and Moths (Lepidoptera) are also good indicators of habitat quality and play important roles in ecosystem functioning. They can show any effects of land management faster than other groups due to their short lifespans and fast reproduction.

Six species of Irelandís 33 species of butterfly are classified as threatened and five as near threatened, using IUCN criteria. The Mountain Ringlet is already extinct. The Large Heath is on the European red list of Butterflies, while the Marsh Fritilliary is listed on Annex II of the Habitats directive and is therefore protected by law. Any development work that might affect this species will be a notifiable action.

Butterflies are usually surveyed by walking a transect through a site regularly from April - September during their flight periods. This survey is conducted when the temperature is above 13 0C (17 0C when cloudy) for peak activity. For Marsh Fritilliary, surveys are conducted for colonial larval webs.

There are over 1350 moth species in Ireland. Most can be surveyed using a light trap overnight and identified the following day. A portable Heath trap can be used in remote locations away from a power source. There are some day flying moths that can be surveyed by transect as with butterflies.

Invertebrate Surveys

Black-tailed skimmers

Other taxa of insects are surveyed in particular include Dragonflies, Damselflies, Hoverflies and Spiders. While butterflies are well studied and appreciated due to their brilliance and comparative ease to survey, most invertebrates are overlooked due to the sheer number of species, their small size and difficulties with identification. However, they are all important indicators of biodiversity in the same way as the lepidoptera. Only a few invertebrates are afforded protection;

  • White-Clawed Crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes)
  • Pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera)
  • Kerry Slug (Geomalacus maculosus)
  • Whorl snails (Vertigo geyeriV. angustior and V. moulinsiana).

Non-specific surveys of various invertebrate taxa can be useful in assessing the species composition of sites and give an idea of their abundance. This can lead to unexpected findings such as discovering new populations of a species, expanding its range on the national map, or revealing a population contraction in range or decline in abundance.

Appropriate Assessments

Upland blanket bog

If a development or project is planned to occur within the boundaries of a Natura 2000 site, protected under European law as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) or a Special Protection Area (SPA), the potential impacts to the site must be assessed.

The objective of an Appropriate Assessment, also known as a Natura Impact Statement (NIS), is to determine whether any aspects of the project, in combination with other existing operations, will affect the integrity of the Natura 2000 site. This relates to the qualifying interests that the site was designated for. Special Areas of Conservation are selected for the conservation of Annex I habitats and Annex II species, which Special Protection Areas are selected for Annex I birds. If the initial screening process does detect potential impacts, a full NIS will assess them in detail.

Blanket bog
Seabird colony

Ecological Consultancy
086 400 4526
rob@ecoaudit.ie