This course will provide an introduction to the methods by which this continuum of variation can be classified and understood in relation to underlying environmental factors and the management that has been carried out. It will build on the Phase 1 system and will consider the use of the National Vegetation Classification and Phase 2 survey methods. It will also introduce Section 41 Priority Habitats and Habitats Directive Annex 1 vegetation types. Other methods of surveying and classifying plant communities will also be considered. The use of these methods to build up a picture of a site that can be effectively and concisely communicated both to other vegetation scientists and the lay person will be reviewed. We will also learn about techniques for the assessment of vegetation condition and how plant communities fit into wider considerations of management for biodiversity.
Full advantage will be taken of the wide range of habitats available within a very short range of Slapton Ley including Dartmoor, Berry Head and the South Hams coast. These will include heathland, fen, vegetated shingle, unimproved mesotrophic grassland, calcareous grassland, maritime grassland and woodland. This is a fantastic area with much semi-natural habitat, spectacular scenery and geomorphology and a rich fauna. There will also be an opportunity to search for some of the rare coastal plants found here. As much time as possible will be spent in the field including practical mapping exercises, with evening sessions for discussion, examination of data collected during the day and identification of botanical specimens.
Some botanical knowledge is essential when surveying vegetation, and full guidance will be provided, with particular emphasis on the key characteristic and differential species of different communities in all their stages of growth. An attempt will be made to demystify some of the more difficult plant groups such as grasses, sedges and the commoner mosses. There will be the opportunity to explore the use of computer programmes for the analysis of vegetation composition and as aids to the identification of plant communities.