Annex A: How to complete the Environmental Assessment
Farmers must carry out an Environmental Assessment every year across those parts of the holding that are designated as land naturally kept in a state suitable for grazing.
This will be land classed as Payment Regions two and three and upon which the minimum stocking density is not being undertaken. The assessment will comprise three elements:
1. A map and description of the farm environment.
2. Breeding bird, mammal and butterfly surveys.
3. Monitoring of habitats, including plant health survey.
The reliability of the assessment is dependent on the observers used to collect the information. Using appropriately skilled and experienced observers is therefore essential.
1. Map and description of the farm environment
You must carry out a habitat survey and record the information on a Farm Environment Map and Farm Environment Table. An example of a Farm Environment Map is shown in Annex C, and a Farm Environment Table is shown in Annex D.
The Farm Environment Map must clearly show the following:
- the boundaries of the land parcels subject to the Farm Audit and Survey
- boundaries of the following protected places for nature: Site of Special Scientific Interest ( SSSI), Special Protection Area ( SPA), Special Area of Conservation ( SAC) and boundaries of protected places for history e.g. Scheduled Monument
- the habitat survey should map the UK Biodiversity Action Plan ( BAP) broad habitat types (listed in Annex B).
The Farm Environment Table must include a row for each habitat identified in the Farm Environment Map setting out the following information:
- land use
- further detail on broad habitat types
- presence of any species of interest (as a minimum, must record all birds, mammals and butterflies recorded through the annual surveys)
- description of major pressures (e.g. presence of invasive species), environmental risks and opportunities for biodiversity
- description of habitat condition.
2. Breeding bird survey
Carry out an annual distribution and abundance survey of breeding birds in accordance with the methodology described below, adopted from Brown and Shepherd (1993).
The survey area and design must adequately cover the entire area of land naturally kept. The methodology requires four survey visits at least seven days apart. These should cover the whole breeding season between mid-April and early July, and be done between 08:30 hours and 18:00 hours. They should be carried out in a wind of Beaufort force 4 or less, and in dry weather.
For each survey, the date, time and weather conditions must be recorded. In order to maintain search intensity, the minimum time of 20-25 minutes per 500 metres x 500 metres should be maintained. This is equivalent to one minute per hectare.
The observer must follow a route walking through each area of land naturally kept such that all parts are approached to within at least 100 metres. At regular intervals (approximately every 100 metres) the observer should scan around with binoculars as far as terrain or weather allows and listen for calls or song. For each bird observation, the location, British Trust for Ornithology ( BTO) species code (see end of this section) behaviour (e.g. singing, displaying, alarm calls, etc) and number of birds must be recorded on a 1:25,000 scale map.
After each visit the bird registrations on the map can be reviewed to identify breeding pairs / territories. At the end of the season all four maps will need to be combined to produce a final map identifying the total number and location of breeding birds present in the survey area. A paper copy of all the maps should be retained as evidence of the activity.
RPID and Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH) encourage submission of data to the BTO on-line recording system Birdtrack as a 'species list' for your site.
- Brown, A.F. & Shepherd, K.B. (1993) A method for censusing upland breeding waders, Bird Study, 40: 189-195.
3. Mammal survey
The survey activity must also cover observation of mammals on the transect(s) and a separate record must be provided. When undertaking the four bird survey visits, record sightings or signs of mammals in the specific form.
Mammal Survey results can be obtained from the BTO through the Breeding Bird Survey website, at www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/bbs. A paper copy of the form must be retained as evidence of the completion of the activity.
4. Butterfly survey
Carry out an annual survey of butterflies in accordance with the detailed guidance available from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme ( UKBMS) website. In order to cover every hectare on a holding, the survey must consist of two parallel one kilometre transects as a minimum and for every one square kilometre (100 hectares) with a requirement of three site visits in the required season and timings.
Three visits to each transect are required in July and August (with at least ten days between the three visits).
More detailed guidance is available on the UK Butterfly Monitoring Survey website at www.ukbms.org.
Butterfly survey results should be submitted to the Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey by the end of September. Forms should be submitted online through the online recording form system, or the completed forms can be sent back to the relevant national survey co-ordinator at Butterfly Conservation.
A paper copy of the form must be retained as evidence of the completion of the activity. RPID and SNH encourage submission of the forms to BTO as this contributes to the monitoring of butterflies at a wider countryside level.
5. Monitoring of habitats
Vegetation monitoring must be carried out once a year across all broad habitats mapped as part of the habitat survey above. It will be targeted at two elements:
1. An assessment of the impacts of grazing.
2. The presence or absence of invasive non-native species. Results must be recorded on the Environment Table.
A) An assessment of grazing impacts
Monitor 30 plots (two metres x two metres) per habitat to cover all the land designated as land naturally kept in a state suitable for grazing.
Vegetation monitoring of broad habitats must follow the methodology set out in the Best Practice Guide to Habitat Impact Assessments: Principles in Practice.
The methodology requires setting out 30 plots per habitat. These points are annually assessed for deer and herbivore impacts to provide an analysis of herbivore impacts and habitat condition.
Use one form per plot (each habitat as a different recording form, available online from www.bestpracticeguides.org.uk/reference/forms) and provide an analysis of each habitat in the Environment Table.
For each habitat provide an analysis which:
1. average the frequency of each impact
2. looks at the trend in the averages over time (i.e. is the impact increasing, decreasing or unchanged?).
For woodland habitats, the required methodology is set out in the Woodland Grazing Toolbox on the Forestry Commission website at http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/woodland-grazing-toolbox. The methodology assesses herbivore impacts based on assessing and quantifying the impacts on a series of seven universal indicators which comprise:
- basal shoots
- epicormic and lower shoots
- bark stripping and stem breakage
- seedlings and saplings
- preferentially browsed or grazed plants
- ground disturbance.
The method assesses how much in broad categories of the last 12 months' growth has been removed (e.g. >90%, >50% and <90%, >10% and <50% and <10%). This is done for each of the seven indicators where they are present.
B) The presence and absence of invasive non-native species
Record in the Environment Table presence / absence of invasives and the extent. The key species to include are:
- Japanese knotweed
- Himalayan balsam
- giant hogweed
- grey squirrel.
Record in the Environment Table encroachment of bracken on open habitats such as heathland, grassland and bogs where identified.
6. Plant health survey
A survey of plant health must be carried out on an annual basis. Any sightings of plant pests or diseases identified as part of the habitat survey must be recorded on the Farm Environment table.
This must include any observations of Phytophthora austrocedrae, Phytophthora ramorum and P.kernoviae. Further guidance must be followed from Forest Research Factsheet on the Forestry Commission Scotland website, at http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/supporting/forest-industries/tree-health.
P. ramorum and kernoviae are fungus-like pathogens causing serious and often fatal diseases on a wide range of trees and shrubs. The aim of this survey is to establish whether these pathogens have spread to blaeberries in Scottish heathland.
BTO Species Codes