How to Write an Ecology Report
Updated: Sep 6, 2019
I'm the Managing Director of aLyne Ecology. I managed a branch of Acorn Ecology for 5 years and previous to that, I've been an ecologist since 1999. I started as an assistant ecologist in a multi-disciplinary consultancy back in 1998 and gradually moved up the ranks, working at various consultancies. During my 20 years as an ecologist, I have been taught how to write different types of ecological reports, from Landscape and Ecology Schemes to Preliminary Ecological Appraisals.
In 2013, a British Standard on biodiversity was released – BS 42020:2013, Biodiversity – Code of Practice for Planning and Development. In 2015, the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) published Guidelines for Ecological Report Writing. Both publications provide a standardised framework for delivering high-quality ecological information, which complies with current legislation and planning policy, allows effective decision-making and promotes the successful implementation of ecological avoidance, mitigation and enhancement.
Effective report writing is one of the most important elements of ecological consultancy. A report must be fit for purpose, objective, accurate, concise, robust, proportionate and tailored to the requirements of the reader. Good grammar is important, as is a thorough technical review and proof read.
All ecological reports comprise eleven main elements – summary, introduction, relevant legislation and planning policy, methods, baseline ecological conditions, assessment, recommendations, conclusion, references, maps and appendices. The first consideration is the purpose of the report and then making sure that you fulfil it. The report needs a beginning, middle and an end and, like a book, you are telling a story to the reader, making sure you provide everything they need to understand what has been done and what the next steps are. To summarise, the report needs to cover why, who, what, how and when.
The summary is often the most important section of the report, as this often the only section, which is read. The summary should be brief, concise and include all key issues.
It is useful to prepare a template for each type of ecological report, which sets out instructions for the author. This can help save time and ensure that the necessary information is written into the appropriate section and nothing is left out. The template can include section headings, standard survey methods, tables for adding results and references. However, it is important to remember that the author must take ownership of their report, and not just follow a template blindly. Most reports need to be adapted in some way from the template.
Learning how to write good ecological reports takes training, guidance and experience.