Faculty of SITE Northern Territory University Flora & Fauna Survey Techniques
what is flora and fauna survey?
example 1
example 2
example 3
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biological diversity
why survey?
factors to consider
preparing to sample
flora survey techniques
fauna survey techniques
analysing data
presenting data

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What types of surveys are there?
Who uses flora and fauna surveys?
What are the purposes of flora and fauna surveys?

What types of surveys are there?top of page
There are two basic types of surveys: biodiversity and ecological surveys.

The practical aspect of this course will focus on a biodiversity survey, but most components of the course relate to both biodiversity and ecological surveys.

A biodiversity survey documents the biodiversity of a specified area. The information collected provides people with the ability to assess conservation values of areas, understand the implications of changes in land use, document natural heritage, and assist in natural resource management.

Ecological surveys usually involve surveying the distribution and abundance of either individual species or a few similar species, where direct and precise quantitative measurements are required. The species of primary interest are often pests, endangered or ecologically valuable, or for some economic reason such as harvesting. This type of survey information is vital to the management of these species.

Here's an example of some of the different levels of information that you might collect about a species of plant as part of a biodiversity survey of an area. The hypothetical example is the Darwin Stringybark Eucalyptus tetrodonta.

Field surveys may also be used to answer complex questions such as

  • why does species x prefer a particular habitat?
  • why does habitat x contain more species than habitat y?
  • why is species x declining?
  • how many of species x can we harvest without depleting the population?

These sorts of questions are generally regarded as the province of wildlife research rather than flora and fauna surveys. The major difference is that dealing with these questions may require

  • a detailed knowledge of ecological theory
  • sophisticated project designs including experiments
  • sophisticated data analysis

These skills are beyond the scope of this unit. Nevertheless, there is often no sharp line between wildlife research and flora and fauna survey, as you can see from the reading for Assessment item 1 (Woinarski et al. 1999). All good wildlife research builds on a firm base of natural history knowledge, including the sort of information we can collect in a flora or fauna survey.

Who uses flora and fauna surveys?top of page
In general, Federal and State government land resource and conservation agencies are the main organisations which undertake flora and fauna surveys in Australia. Other groups that undertake surveys include environmental consulting firms, mining companies, Aboriginal land councils, universities and museums.

In the Northern Territory, most flora and fauna surveys are undertaken by the Parks & Wildlife Commission and private consultants acting for developers (as in the Ord River EIS), whilst the NT Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment is a major user of the survey results.

What are the purposes of flora and fauna surveys?top of page
Flora and fauna surveys play an important role in

  • documenting biological diversity
  • determining the conservation value of particular areas or species
  • preparing management guidelines for natural resources
  • describing the distribution of species and the environmental factors that influence this, and developing hypotheses about habitats.

As it is unrealistic to count and measure all the plants and animals in a particular habitat, it is necessary to estimate these measurements for a population or community by sampling it. The basic concepts and techniques required to carry out these types of surveys are applicable to a wide range of environments. However, every site is different and no two surveys will be the same. The objectives of a given survey also make each one different from the last. The importance of having clearly stated objectives cannot be overemphasised.

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