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UK’s biggest ever countryside survey starts this week

Press release issued by the Natural Environment Research Council on behalf of the Countryside Survey Partnership

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. The team will survey in excess of 600 one kilometre squares of the English, Welsh and Scottish countryside. At the same time a complementary survey will be carried out in Northern Ireland.

Information will be collected on natural landscape features including plant communities and habitats within farmland, woods, heathland, moors, soils, small rivers and ponds. The results of the survey will provide a unique audit of UK 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 2007 survey is the fifth in a sequence that stretches back to 1978. The Countryside 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.

Barry Gardiner MP, Defra Minister for Biodiversity said "I greatly welcome this year's Countryside Survey. The countryside is constantly changing. It is the product of millions of decisions by individual farmers and consumers, along with the policies of government, public and voluntary bodies. It is essential that we understand the effects of change, so that we can conserve its best features and guide the direction of change in the future."

Professor Pat Nuttall, Director of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the UK’s leading land and freshwater research organisation who are carrying out the Survey, commented “In the twenty-first century it is more important than ever to gather reliable data to underpin our scientific understanding of the environment. Countryside Survey is a key part of this process and I’m delighted that we are playing a leading role. I look forward to seeing the results.”

Funding for the fifth Countryside Survey, which totals around £8Million, comes from 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).

Marion O'Sullivan | alfa
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