The survey area:
The basic survey area is 1 km2 within which areal, linear and point elements are recorded. In complex landscapes 0.25 km2 may be appropriate.
Time window for survey:
For monitoring, the recording of the GHCs should be made in a time window as close as possible to the height of the growing season. This window is likely to be before maximum biomass in the Mediterranean, but after in Scandinavia. The latter can be determined by snow cover. The extent of the window must be set by region, using local phenological information. In the desert environment the survey of vegetation may only be possible after a rain event and may therefore be determined by when these occur. Repeat surveys should be carried out in the same time span as the baseline surveillance as close as possible to the same date of the original survey. Local flexibility may be required for annual variations in weather.
The field team:
A field team should consist of at least two people for safety and for consultation. Mixed teams, preferably with a botanist and an experienced mapper or GIS expert, are needed to ensure that the team is balanced. Adequate field training is required for all surveyors.
Quality control is essential and involves regular liaison with staff in the field, and direct supervision and consultation. The Handbook must be referred to continually in order to optimise field performance, especially when working in landscapes that have contrasting elements, e.g. polyculture landscapes with many small patches.
Quality assurance involves repeated recording by independent observers of previously surveyed squares. The Countryside Survey of Great Britain (GB-CS) and the Northern Ireland Countryside Survey (www.science.ulster.ac.uk/nics) have both developed procedures.
Database checks is a first stage to carry out automated checking. It is also essential to carry out manual checks with an expert observer to ensure that the data are as consistent as possible.