Articles | Volume 10, issue 2
Review article
16 Apr 2018
Review article |  | 16 Apr 2018

Ecological landscape elements: long-term monitoring in Great Britain, the Countryside Survey 1978–2007 and beyond

Claire M. Wood, Robert G. H. Bunce, Lisa R. Norton, Lindsay C. Maskell, Simon M. Smart, W. Andrew Scott, Peter A. Henrys, David C. Howard, Simon M. Wright, Michael J. Brown, Rod J. Scott, Rick C. Stuart, and John W. Watkins

Abstract. The Countryside Survey (CS) of Great Britain (GB) provides a unique and statistically robust series of datasets, consisting of an extensive set of repeated ecological measurements at a national scale, covering a time span of 29 years. CS was first undertaken in 1978 to provide a baseline for ecological and land use change monitoring in the rural environment of GB, following a stratified random design, based on 1 km squares. Originally, eight random 1 km squares were drawn from each of 32 environmental classes, thus comprising 256 sample squares in the 1978 survey. The number of these sites increased to 382 in 1984, 506 in 1990, 569 in 1998 and 591 in 2007. Detailed information regarding vegetation types and land use was mapped in all five surveys, allowing reporting by defined standard habitat classifications. Additionally, point and linear landscape features (such as trees and hedgerows) are available from all surveys after 1978. From these stratified, randomly located sample squares, information can be converted into national estimates, with associated error terms.

Other data, relating to soils, freshwater and vegetation, were also sampled on analogous dates. However, the present paper describes only the surveys of landscape features and habitats. The resulting datasets provide a unique, comprehensive, quantitative ecological coverage of extent and change in these features in GB. Basic results are presented and their implications discussed. However, much opportunity for further analyses remains.

Data from each of the survey years are available via the following DOIs: Landscape area data 1978:, 1984:, 1990:, 1998:, and 2007:; Landscape linear feature data 1984:, 1990:, 1998: and 2007:, Landscape point feature data 1984:, 1990:, 1998: and 2007:

Short summary
The Countryside Survey (CS) of Great Britain consists of an extensive set of repeated ecological measurements at a national scale, covering a time span of 29 years. CS was first undertaken in 1978 to monitor ecological and land use change in Britain using standardised procedures for recording ecological data from representative 1 km squares throughout the country. The mapping of ecological landscape elements has subsequently been repeated in 1984, 1990, 1998 and 2007.