Habitat Survey

We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot.

(Leonardo da Vinci, 1450)

We need some vocabulary to be explained before we start

Ecology is the study of the relationships between living things, both with one another and with their surrounding environment.

The Environment is everything that surrounds an animal or plant

The Habitat is the place where an animal or plant lives. Each type of habitat can support different species

Most of the good organisation of the plants and animals into various classifications was done by Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) for more on him see wikipedia. He is also considered the father of modern ecology

Local Habitat Study

Ecology Presentation using ICT’s

local habitat study

pg 40-44 in Edco lab book

use of simple keys and instruments (quadrat, pooter, pitfall trap, beating tray, line transect) to show variety and distribution of named organisms

using appropriate instruments


Randomly place 20 quadrats in the field.

Record the plant species in each quadrat.

Habitat study

Open Habitat study

simple keys

To identify many of our native flora and fauna try these links

This latest one is a collection of pdfs & books







Click on the “Tree Identification” link.

Choose “LEAF On-line Tree Key.”


For each species record the number of quadrats out of 20 it was found in.

Multiply this number by 5 to calculate the species frequency.

It is very Important to know how to get the percentage frequency of a species

Frequency scale: DAFOR

D: dominant > 85%

A: abundant 65% < # < 85%

F: frequent 35% < # < 65%

O: occasional 10% < # < 35%

R: rare < 10 %

M: missing (not present)

Another method for Habitat survey is a

line transect

Line transects are used when you wish to illustrate a particular gradient or linear pattern along which communities of plants and, or animals change.

Continuous line transects note every individual (plant species) touching the line. These are useful only over relatively short distances.

Interval line transects note the species at set distances like every meter, or every half meter.

Traps for Animal Surveys


A pooter is a clear jar that is easy to see through. The pooter has a lid, through this lid are 2 tubes, one for the collector to suck through, the other to take the species into the examination chamber. The tube you should suck through should have a little piece of gauss across the tube so you cannot accidentally inhale the little bug.

A pooter should be used in conjunction with a sweep net. After you have swept the net over the area of interest, you should use the pooter to extract the collected species contained within the net.

Sweep Net

A sweep net is a large net that you pull across the tops of grasses, over bushes. Other sweep nets can be used in water (e.g. ponds)

Pitfall Trap

A Pitfall trap is simply made by digging a hole deep enough for a jar to fit in it.

Back fill the hole so the top of the Jar is level with the soil.

Add some methylated spirits to the jar, add a small amount of of oil to the surface to prevent evaporation.

The methylated spirits will prevent any specimen from escaping the jar.

Lay some stone over the mouth of the jar, as to camouflage the trap.

Leave for 48-72 hours.

Come back and check its contents, note down your findings.

Investigating the Distribution of an Animal Species e.g. beetles.

Method: Grid Trapping

Pitfall traps are laid out in a grid pattern in the habitat.

A map of the habitat is made showing the positions of the pitfall traps in which beetles were found.

The pattern of these traps on the map is the distribution of beetles.

beating tray

It consists of a white cloth stretched out on a circular or rectangular frame. The beating tray is held under a tree or shrub and the foliage is then shaken or beaten with a stick. Insects fall from the plant and land on the cloth. They can then be examined or collected. One could just use an upturned umberella

cryptazoic trap

Environmental (non-living or abiotic) features

Depending on the habitiat some or all of the following should be measured.

Collecting Plants

Plants can be collected by cutting them with a knife or by removing them with a small spade or trowel.

Collecting Animals

A pooter, a beating tray and a pitfall trap are devices used to collect animals.

Other experiments that you could carry out

Soil drainage.

Three stands. Three funnels. Glass wool or cotton wool. Three different soil samples. Six graduated cylinders. Timer.

Wear gloves when handling glass wool.

Measure the volumes of water after a fixed time.

Relate rate of drainage to soil type.



Composition of two soils.

Two soils. Graduated cylinders. Water. Electronic balance.

Take the same weight of samples.

Use deionised water.

Allow to settle.


Water, humus and inorganic matter in soils.

Two soil samples. Hotplate. Electronic balance. Evaporating basins. Desiccator. Bunsen burner.

Same weight of both Soils.

Cool before re-weighing.