The biggest and most comprehensive survey of the natural resources of the British countryside begins this week. The Countryside Survey will be carried out by a team of over sixty specially trained scientists working for the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.
More than 600 one kilometre squares of the English, Welsh and Scottish countryside will be surveyed over the next four months. Information will be collected on natural landscape features including plant communities and habitats within farmland, woods, heathland, moors, soils, small rivers and ponds. At the same time a complementary survey will be carried out in Northern Ireland, completing the picture for the UK.
The results of the survey will provide a unique audit of our environmental assets generating an overall picture of the current status of our countryside. This is especially important as the countryside faces major challenges such as climate change, pollution, non-native species and the introduction of new crops including biofuels. The first results are due in Autumn 2008.
The 2007 Countryside Survey is the fifth in a sequence that stretches back to 1978. The survey provides evidence that informs us about the status of our countryside and feeds into new Government policies. The last survey, which reported in 2000, demonstrated the effectiveness of this system by confirming a reversal in the decline of hedgerows. Countryside Survey data from 1978 onwards had provided evidence of the extent of this decline which led to changes in legislation and new agricultural policies encouraging more effective land management.
The full Countryside Survey partnership consists of the Natural Environment Research Council, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and eight government departments and agencies headed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).