Survey, Surveillance, Monitoring and Recording

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Monitoring, surveillance and recording are all activities concerned with the collection and management of information. They are an indispensable and integral component of management planning: without information there can be no planning. This chapter is about survey, surveillance and monitoring in the context of management planning. It is not about the information required for reporting purposes, and it is certainly not about research (hypothesis testing).

Survey: Making a single observation to measure and record something.

Surveillance: Making repeated standardised surveys in order that change can be detected. This is quite different to, but often confused with, monitoring. Surveillance lacks the ‘formulated standards’ that are so important in monitoring. Surveillance is used to detect change but does not differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable change.

Monitoring: Surveillance undertaken to ensure that formulated standards are being maintained (JNCC 1998). Monitoring should be an essential and integral component of management planning: there can be no planning without monitoring and no monitoring without planning. Monitoring projects should not be unnecessarily complicated. A decision must be made about how accurate a monitoring project needs to be. There should be a direct relationship between the accuracy of the conditions that management can deliver and the level of accuracy that a monitoring project is designed to measure. The development of any monitoring strategy should be based on the availability of resources and on a risk assessment. We need to understand what we can afford to do, which features are the most vulnerable (i.e. most likely to change) and which need remedial management (i.e. those which should change).

Recording: Making a permanent and accessible record of significant activities (including management), events and anything else that has relevance to the site. Recording management activities must be given the highest priority: if something is worth doing it must be worth recording. Recording is an expensive activity and it must be planned with exactly the same rigour as all other aspects of reserve management. Information and records are only as good as they are accessible. Good data management is essential, but this can be quite a challenge, especially on large sites or when there is a need to share information over several sites.

Keywords monitoring, performance indicators, recording, survey, surveillance