Ecology Oxford

The development of a biodiversity offsetting scheme has been in the pipeline for some time, and a pilot scheme devised by Defra has recently come to an end. In essence, the Defra ‘metrics’ approach enables biodiversity credits to be calculated for habitats that will be unavoidably lost, and an equivalent value of credits provided through habitat restoration or creation to compensate for this loss.
At BSG Ecology we routinely field requests for invertebrate surveys. These can take many forms, but typically include: surveys of sites with potential to support invertebrate species or invertebrates associated with habitats of principal importance (NERC Act 2006); assessment of biological water quality of ponds, lakes, streams and rivers, using freshwater invertebrates as indicators of ecosystem health; or more bespoke surveys of protected or otherwise notable invertebrate species (e.g. white-clawed crayfish, or rare dragonfly or butterfly species).
There is currently considerable uncertainty as to the extent to which bats migrate in and out of the UK from Continental Europe, although many experts in UK bat ecology consider that some degree of migration occurs.  Small scale research studies, development-related survey at coastal sites and records of bats on vessels and offshore oil rigs have provided indications that migratory movements occur in spring and autumn.  However, this gap in current knowledge does not appear to be being addressed through strategic studies.
Working in conjunction with Hanson Aggregates Ltd and the RSPB, BSG Ecology staff have created an otter holt at a gravel pit in Oxfordshire. The site has been chosen by the RSPB as a Nature After Minerals case study site, and is in the process of restoration.
Wildlife legislation and licensing requirements can often lead to a relatively standard suite of ecological surveys being undertaken to support planning applications.  However, in some cases, non-standard surveys can be very helpful in increasing confidence in the conclusions of an assessment, informing mitigation strategies and securing licences. 
This article is part of our on-going review of new research into wind farm impacts on bats. It considers a recent paper published in the journal Biological Conservation by Voigt et al. (2012) titled “The catchment area of wind farms for European bats: a plea for international regulations¹”. It makes interesting and challenging reading for those involved in wind farm development in continental Europe, and has some possible implications for future assessment of impacts on bats at wind energy installations within the UK both on-shore and off-shore.

Update June 2020 - the draft British Standard BS 8683 Process for designing and implementing Biodiversity Net Gain – Specification, setting out the requirements for the biodiversity net gain assessment process for all developments across the UK has been released - a full article on the key questions the draft standard raises can be found here:  Setting A Standard For Biodiversity Net Gain For Development

  The emerging draft of BS42020 Biodiversity - Code of Practice for Planning and Development provides opportunities for improved consistency and objectivity across all professional ecologists involved in delivering advice on ecology matters in advance of and during the planning application process. The BS will apply to those working in the public, private and voluntary sectors.
In September 2011 BSG Ecology was commissioned to prepare and implement a method statement for the translocation of a small population of lizard orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum) on a brownfield field site near Ramsgate in Kent.
There are standard techniques for the survey of many protected animal species in the UK, particularly for those that remain common and widespread at the national or regional level.   These protocols are useful, but taking a formulaic approach to survey work doesn’t always address the question that needs answering.  In certain circumstances the use of equipment such as motion-activated cameras and video recorders can significantly increase the value of a survey programme and allow a greater level of confidence in the interpretation of results at very little extra cost.  Innovative use of technology can also help engagement with consultees and engender confidence in survey results.
BSG Ecology has been delivering ecological survey and assessment in support of wind farm and large single turbine applications for a considerable time.   Over the past year, however, we have begun to field a considerable number of queries about small-scale turbines, typically to provide electricity for individual industrial units or farms.  The requirement for our input often arises as a result of consultee concerns about potential impacts on bats.
A decision by the Secretary of State (SoS) on a public inquiry into residential development at land south of Wallisdown Road, Poole was published on 28th February (PINS Ref: APP/Q1255/V/10/2138124). This was a key case called in by the SoS as it involved residential and associated development within 400m of Talbot Heath, which is part of the Dorset Heaths SPA. Understandably Natural England and the RSPB had maintained an objection to the scheme throughout the planning process as this represented a significant departure from their published guidance on development near heathland sites. The decision to grant planning permission by Borough of Poole Council has been overturned by this decision.
BSG Ecology opens a new office in Swansea, South Wales on 1 March 2012.  This will be led by Owain Gabb, Principal Ecologist, who has moved to Wales after two years in our Oxford office.