Ecological survey with BHASSEXPLORE
To initially survey this unique area of Beachy head, we needed to have a general understanding of the habitat we are looking at. To do this we started at the bottom of the terrestrial food chain, the plants! Surveys were carried out using a 50cmX50cm quadrat (divided into 25 sections – each of which measured 5cmX5cm). This quadrat is used to survey random intervals of the zones surface. The quadrat is thrown at random and the surface and vegetation cover recorded. Each square in the 50cm quadrat equates to roughly 10% of the surface cover of the 50cm area, allowing for consistent method of random sampling.
When a quadrat was randomly placed on the Zones surface, different species of plants were identified and then recorded as a percentage of surface cover. For example, 10% = rock cover, 20% Samphire, 50% = Glaucous sedge, 5% = sea lavender and 15% = Wild carrot. Many species of plants where unidentifiable on the site, so samples were collected labelled and later identified. Unknown species were in the field labelled based on physical characteristics. As an example, Glaucous sedge Carex flacca, was unknown in the field so was recorded as long grass until later identified to species level.
In general, there was a change recognised in the plant species variation from the eastern side to the western regions of the Zone. More grassland species dominated the eastern side while coastal plants were common on western regions. There was also a similar variation from the cliffs to the sea. The closer to the cliff’s plants were the more dominance grassland diversity had, while nearer the high tide mark represented a clear coastal plant dominance. Further research will demonstrate a more concise evaluation of the Zone and the variation in plant species across the area. Come spring there will be an invertebrate survey coupled with another more concise plant survey to recorded and present the biodiversity found on the chalk island known to us BHASSEXPLORErs as the ZONE.