There is a well defined policy requirement for a practical and reproducible procedure for surveillance and monitoring of habitats in Spain that can subsequently be fitted into a European framework. Any such procedure also needs to incorporate records of the Spanish habitat classification. A procedure is described that will satisfy those requirements and has been field tested both in Spain and in Europe. Rigorous rules and training are required; otherwise changes from baseline records cannot reliably be separated from background noise. The procedure uses the classical plant life forms long used in biogeography and is based on their statistical relationship with the environment. This relationship has been validated statistically and the procedure has also been tested in the field in all European environmental zones and widely in Spain. 130 General Habitat Categories are defined and these are enhanced in the field by recording environmental, site and management qualities to produce a flexible database that can then be interrogated. The rules for mapping the habitats mean that they can be used for descriptive purposes or for monitoring. In conjunction with stratification and subsequent sampling, national estimates of stock and change can then be produced. Finally, based on the previous experience of SISPARES, a methodological scheme is proposed for adapting the approach to Spain. The proposal will allow links to be made between European scale surveillance and monitoring to those already obtained for Spain.
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