Surveys are a vital prevention tool, to detect new non-native species at an early stage, before they get the chance to establish and spread and become a signifiantly more costly problem. Surveys for early detection should be carefully designed and targeted to give usually a yes (present) or no (absent) answer for an area. Surveys may also be required to monitor progress of a managment plan or to confirm absence of a species following an eradication programme.

There are three types of surveys to consider:
  1. General
  2. Site specific
  3. Species specific

General surveys

For large or conspicuous animals and plants this is a looking survey. Staff and the public should be encouraged to be vigilent and report new sightings. Interest groups such as botanical societies should also be encouraged to undertake specific searches for new emergent species.

Site specific surveys

These are surveys targeted at key sites such as high value biodiversity areas or areas near high risk entry points. Surveys should extend beyond the entry point depending on the habitat, geography, tracks and roads around the entry point.

 High risk entry points  
 Terrestrial species  airports, seaports, container or freight unpacking areas
 Marine species  harbours

What to do if surveying for vertebrates:
  • Search for signs such as tracks, droppings, feeding damage.
  • Know your fauna and look for new species.
  • Find out who the local experts and contact people are.
  • If you find a new species record it carefully, report it and ensure it is identified rapidly.

Read more on how to record and report non-native species.

What to do if surveying for plant species:

  • Use an experienced botanist who knows the area. This person should be able to readily identify a new arrival.
  • For people with less botabical experience use identification aids such as the ID sheets on this website. Also make use of books, field guides and posters.
  • Use posters of known prior invaders or invasive non-native species present in neighbouring areas or countries, easily transported species and species of similar bio-climatic zones to raise awareness and to educate.
Find identification guides for over 60 different non-native species.

What to do if surveying for marine species:
  • Organise a team of marine taxonomists (probably volunteering their time) to focus on examining dock fouling at a series of stations over a short period of time (e.g. one week).
  • Dock fouling can be quickly and effectively sampled without regard to the tide level.
  • Regular monitoring of this kind might be suitable following an eradication programme.

Species specific surveys

Where specific threats are identified and prioritised it will be appropriate to carry out regular surveys. It is important to consider frequency and timing of surveys.

What to do if surveying for plants:
  • Use identification aids such as the ID sheets on this website, field guides, books and illustrations.
  • ID training may be necessary.

Find identification guides for over 60 different non-native species.

What to do if surveying for mammals:
  • Surveying for large mammals such as deer, apart from sightings of the mammal look out for distinctive signs such as tracks and feeding damage. Annual or biennial surveys by a knowledgeable observer will suffice.
  • Surveying for smaller mammals such as rodents and feral cats needs to be seasonally timed, habitat selective, and more intensive as they are more difficult to detect in low numbers.
Also see the Tracking Mammals Partnership Guidelines on Best Practice in Surveillance and Monitoring (external link).

What to do if surveying for insects:
  • Collaborate with local entomologists to design survey methods to suit the insect being surveyed.
  • Based th esurvey on specific behaviours and characteristics of the invader.
  • Make use of very specific effective trapping methods such as pheremone traps or targeted lure traps where possible.
What to do if surveying for reptiles, lizards and snakes:
  • Trapping using rodents as bait in double compartment traps has been effective.
  • General survey and high level of public awareness is also important.
What to do if surveying for freshwater fish and invertebrates:
  • The angling community can be very useful in detecting new fish introductions
  • Select fish and inverebrate sampling techniques according to habitat, depth of water and species sought.
  • Fish sampling techniques include gill nets, trawls, seine nets, rotenone, angling and electroshocking.
  • Invertebrate sampling techniques range from ponar grabs for benthic organisms to plankton tows for planktonic organisms.

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