A Statement on Common Standards Monitoring


3. The basic approach

3.1 In developing common standards for site monitoring it is important to define what is meant by monitoring. In these standards we distinguish between surveillance and monitoring.


3.2 Surveillance relates to a continued programme of surveys systematically undertaken to provide a series of observations over time. Such programmes of repeated observations are very valuable for establishing the trends in the components of nature conservation at different geographic scales. Surveillance programmes and survey information both contribute to the national audit of wildlife which serves a range of different purposes including informing decision making, policy development and empowering individuals and groups to make wise choices about the natural environment. Surveillance programmes can benefit from agreed standards but this is not dealt with further in this paper.
3.3 Monitoring is, in contrast to surveillance, the making of an observation to establish whether a standard is being met. This can be established in a single visit or observation and does not require information collected over time.
3.4 The purpose of site monitoring is essentially to:
  • Determine whether the desired condition of the feature(s) of interest for which the site was designated is being achieved. This can enable judgements to be made about whether the management of the site is appropriate, or whether changes are necessary.
  • To enable managers and policy makers to determine whether the site series as a whole is achieving the required condition, and the degree to which current legal, administrative and incentive measures are proving effective.


3.5 Standards for site monitoring need to be sufficiently robust so that they can be implemented consistently across the UK by the different agencies, yet also be able to cater for the different operational practices and systems that have evolved in each country. The framework of standards ensures that the minimum requirements are defined and are able to be delivered within the resources available. The detailed operational development of these standards is the responsibility of each of the country agencies. The standards must enable us to monitor all of the habitats, species and earth science features protected within the SSSIs and ASSIs, including those of importance in the Natura 2000 network and Ramsar sites.
3.6 The bulk of the monitoring effort is likely to be undertaken by local conservation officers in the course of their day to day duties although in some situations, for example in the marine environment, other specialists may be required. The framework is designed to enable staff to undertake the assessments required bearing in mind the wide variation in types of site, interest features, knowledge of natural changes which occur and even the variation in the expertise and experience of staff. The standards facilitate quick and simple judgements but are also sufficiently robust to provide the required level of quality control and assurance that the assessments of site condition are accurate and consistent across the country.