Faculty of SITE Northern Territory University Flora & Fauna Survey Techniques
what is flora and fauna survey?
why survey?
factors to consider
preparing to sample
flora survey techniques
vegetation descriptions
sampling concepts
fauna survey techniques
analysing data
presenting data

Which techniques should I use to survey flora?

A description of the flora is an integral part of resource survey work. The researcher has a range of techniques available to use in a flora survey.

Imagine being asked to design a flora survey for a site because an EIS required the listing of all rare and endangered species at that site. Now imagine designing a survey for the same site that required general information on habitat complexity to help determine distribution of faunal communities.

Do you think you would use the same techniques?

Clearly, the technique that you would use would vary with the aims of the survey. An intensive floristic inventory would be employed for the former example, whereas a general description of community type and its structure would be appropriate for the latter.

Factors to consider
The following are factors considered when selecting a flora survey technique:

  • relevance to aims of project
    • ecologists with botanical training generally prefer an approach based upon floristics. Disadvantages are that it requires considerable time and expertise.
    • zoologists are often more interested in vegetation as a matrix in which animals feed and live. Hence its structure, particularly stratification, and habitat diversity is more important.
    • soil scientists, geologists and climatologists are interested in vegetation as an expression of the factors they study. They prefer classifications that produce mapable units.
    • foresters frequently use an assessment of species composition to indicate site potential and to help in selecting species for planting. However, indicator species are most often used and objective methods for describing vegetation are usually restricted to research projects.
  • speed
  • accuracy
  • objectivity (reproducability)
  • non-destructiveness
  • cost-effectiveness.

In practice the research worker usually has to compromise. The most objective method may not be the fastest. The most accurate may be destructive. Experimental design and analysis skills developed in SBI504, and continued reference to texts on experimental designs and the planning of experiments, are useful in making these decisions.

Which method?
In your required reading for this topic (Goldsmith 1986) a figure is presented (Figure 9.1, p. 439) which provides the researcher with a flow chart that gives guidance about which method to select. Refer to that diagram now.

Please read
Reading 3

Goldsmith, F.B., Harrison, C.M. and Morton, A.J. (1986). "Description and Analysis of Vegetation." in Moore P.D. and Chapman S.B. (eds) Methods in Plant Ecology. pages 437-524. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford.

Note that only six major problems frequently confronted by ecologists have been listed. More recent innovations with remote sensing methodologies have increased the options.

The following two sections provide more detail about the survey sampling methods which are used for flora:

Vegetation description
Survey sampling methods

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last updated by lrp@cdu.edu.au 6 August, 2004
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