Ecological assessment is a screening tool to know the present situation and potential of the land. Detailed analysis of soil, water, flora & fauna and natural processes helps in understanding the given area. It provides baseline data that helps in evaluating the site. It also provides perfect orientation towards any kind of planning on the land.
Along with this survey, a study is conducted for reference ecosystem. Reference ecosystem is any protected area within surrounding landscape which gives thorough idea about the prevailing ecological conditions.
Correlating all this data and the history of man-nature relationship is an interesting exercise and is useful to decide the strategy for future eco-development. It is recommended to do year round ecological assessment for any land to get hold of complete set of data for the land and associated processes.
Biodiversity is all living organisms’ i.e. floral (plants) and faunal (animal) species. We look at these species as an ‘indicator’... Indicator of good or bad health of the ecosystem. Identifying and locating them on the project area is the first step. e.g. locating a rare tree or a threatened plant or a roosting or nesting sites of birds or some den of a mammal.
Natural resource assessment
Biodiversity assessment goes hand in hand with natural resource mapping mainly Land (Soil) and Water resources. Physical features play a very important role in shaping biodiversity. For e.g. very deep fine soil may lack vegetation due to deterioration of certain processes while just a thin layer of soil with protected natural systems may support tall forests. So zoning of land as per the physical features becomes one of the important steps that helps in planning stage.
Identify & assess ecological processes
Ecological processes such as natural regeneration in soil, pollination, recycling within soil and vegetation are vital in ecological restoration. These processes stall due to negative biotic interference. A piece of land may have a mosaic of habitats which exhibit various ecological processes or the habitats could be totally absent. Identification of all such micro and macro habitats, the processes and links associated with them is important to improve the overall ecological health of the area.
Identify ‘Ecologically Important Sites’
Ecologically Important Sites are the sites which are of preservation value. E.g. a spring in a landscape which is a perennial source of water becomes utmost important in tropical country like India or an old growth tree supporting an array of diversity like climbers, insects, nests, beehives, orchids, mosses acts like a keystone for all these species. So identifying all such sites within project area is one of the most crucial parts and needs immediate attention and protection.