University of Bristol
Wellcome Trust
Recommended by:
Society of Biology
PEEP for Physics & Ethics at GCSE

Using Science to support biodiversity

Heath Spotted Orchid

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Heath Spotted Orchid

National Parks & Biodiversity on Paths

Stage 3:  How to carry out the investigation.
Part B - Species identification:

One of the most difficult tasks is identifying the plants. 

  • There are many useful keys available, such as from the
    External link Field Studies Council.
  • An alternative method is to assign each species a code number and use this for your data collection.  The species can then be identified at a later date by an expert or by more thorough look at the identification key. 
  • Modern digital cameras, using the macro feature, can now be used to create a photographic key.

Making a photographic key:

  • Obtain a good digital camera and use the ‘macro feature’ to photograph each different plant you can find in the sample area.  You can improve the image by placing a bit of card placed behind the plant. Print these out and then assign a code number or letter to each e.g. species A.  This method has the advantage of being ‘non-invasive’ and having a permanent record for later identification.  Unfortunately it does take some skill to produce good photographs and it will require more than one visit to the sample site.  Using a tripod is strongly advised.
  • The grasses and mosses are very difficult to identify, and for the sake of simplicity, they are all treated as one group here.  If you get good at identification, their actual species could also be identified.





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