Wales has a distinctive and much-loved countryside, with distinctive patterns of grass, heath, wood and moor. The book provides an overview of a major habitat survey across the rural landscapes of Wales. Known as the "Habitat Survey of Wales" ("HSW"), it is one of the most wide-ranging and complete field surveys of vegetation ever undertaken in Britain, and detailed information has been compiled on the extent and distribution of the full range of woodland, grassland, heathland, mire and coastal habitats. The habitat cover of Wales at the end of the 20th century is discussed from an environmental and historical viewpoint. Teams of field surveyors produced detailed habitat maps across Wales, covering almost the complete rural landscape. The findings are made available in this book and interpreted in a text that can be readily understood by an informed reader. More complex statistical analysis has enabled the authors, who all work for the Countryside Council for Wales, to paint an accessible picture of how habitat composition varies in different altitudinal and management zones. Recent trends in habitat cover are also considered, as well as the detailed vegetation composition at plant community scale. This work will be valued as key reference to all those concerned with the scientific understanding, land management and future conservation of the natural environment of Wales.
The authors work as part of the Terrestrial Science Group of the Countryside Council for Wales, the successor body to the Nature Conservancy Council in Wales. Tim Blackstock is head of the group and has overseen the Habitat Survey of Wales since 1987. Liz Howe has co-ordinated and managed the lowland phase of survey from its beginnings, and she now also manages species work in the group and has a special interest in herpetology. Jane Stevens manages, processes and analyses habitat and vegetation data, and played a major role in preparing the maps and data-sets in this publication. Clare Burrows was initially involved as a field surveyor on the survey project, and has subsequently had a leading role in spatial analysis of the findings. Peter Jones specialises in peatland ecology and conservation, and is currently also leading a study of lowland mire vegetation across Wales.