Producing high quality botanical impact assessments and site appraisals

Case Study By Sean Altern – Consultant: Biodiversity Conservation Services

What drives or enables various vegetation to differ and how might a development influence this or the surrounds?

South Africa’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) laws as per the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) are crucial in ensuring that sustainable development is guided by informed decision making.  This guided decision making takes the form of various studies and reports produced on the state of the area(s) to be developed and the effect of the associated impacts of said development on the various environmental aspects such as the flora or ‘vegetation’ of the site.

NCC Environmental Services has produced many high quality botanical impact assessments and site appraisals for a variety of projects. These reports are perfectly authored to meet the specialists technical requirements needed whilst being clear and understandable for those without scientific background during public participation.

Considerations for the botanical assessor include distinguishing of the vegetation type(s), their composition and current and expected state of transition.


Botanical assessments involve three basic stages starting with a desktop analysis. This stage scrutinizes the available project literature as well as any relevant information available about the site such as the vegetation type.

Thereafter sites are visited and systematically traversed where the species, compositions, vegetation types, as well as ecosystem drivers are identified. A careful broad and narrow observation technique is conducted in order to gain a thorough insight into not just what is there, but also what is not, what caused and sustains the site and importantly, what state of transition the site is in and what function, if any, it actually plays. Thorough desktop analysis and experienced skilled field work are thus combined to provide a deep understanding of the area which allows for a confident prediction of what the overall effects of the development will be.

A detailed report is finally compiled complete with GIS mapwork, impact tables, species lists and associated images which can be used by the competent authority to help guide the decision making as to whether the project should or should not occur.

Even the most inconspicuous species may be of high ‘Conservation Concern’.

Assessments are necessary for us to learn and understand the true importance of each site

Botanical assessments require experience and skill in the art of observation. Many factors such as soil, moisture and pollinators can be at play at any given site and it is essential that the full spectrum of influence is understood by the practitioner in order to provide accurate assessments. A site might look like a barren wasteland but could contain critically endangered bulbs that are simply dormant or, a site might appear green and lush however it may have lost the ability to sustain itself any longer. Botanical assessment is not a case of simply looking, but rather ‘observing’, studying, assessing and truly looking beyond in order to learn and understand the true value of each place.

What might be considered a pristine landscape with beautiful flowers could in fact be invaded poor quality habitat.

NCC Environmental Services understands that every botanical impact assessment and site appraisal carries with it the potential to enable or restrict developments.  This is a great responsibility towards our planet and is undertaken with utmost impartial professionalism to ensure that reports and recommendations are accurate and that development is sustainable and achieves real growth for people, planet and business.

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