Why is Countryside Survey important?

Countryside Survey provides reliable evidence about the extent and condition or ‘health’ of the UK’s countryside today. Using statistical analyses, we can estimate changes in the countryside by comparing Countryside Surveys from 2007, 1998, 1990, 1984 and 1978. We can also say how confident we are about our estimates of change (and the relative rate of change) in the countryside.  This evidence is used to help form policies that influence management of the countryside, both now and in the future.

What does the Survey do?

There are two parts to the Survey: the Field Survey and the Land Cover Map. The Field Survey involves an in-depth study of a sample of 1km squares in the countryside. The Land Cover Map uses data from satellites to form a digital map of the different types of land and vegetation across the UK.

The work for the most recent survey in 2007 was carried out as a series of related Work Packages, focusing on soils, freshwaters, habitats and landscape features.


A key benefit from the 2007 Survey: Countryside Survey covers the whole of the UK, but minor modifications to methodology and increases in sample size mean that we can report with confidence on each country as well as for the whole of the UK. Reports have been produced for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


How are the findings used?

The results from Countryside Survey are used to:

  • improve scientific understanding of the countryside’s landscape, vegetation, freshwater and soils
  • monitor changes in the area and distribution of Broad Habitats* and some habitat types of special interest (e.g. Hedgerows, Arable Field Margins and Upland Heath)
  • determine how the countryside’s natural resources respond to changes in land use, climate change and government policy
  • underpin the Government’s reporting of biodiversity
  • assess progress against target indicators in Biodiversity Strategies for the UK and the devolved countries

[See also Science and Research & Policy and Planning]

*For more information on habitat types visit: