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Why Do We Need To
If we want to know what kind of plants
and animals are in a particular habitat,
and how many there are of each species,
it is usually impossible to go and count
each and every one present.
It would be like trying to count different
sizes and colors of grains of sand on the
Solution: Taking a number of samples
from around the habitat & making the
necessary assumption that these
samples are representative of the habitat
in general.
In order to be reasonably sure that the
results from the samples do represent the
habitat as closely as possible, careful
planning beforehand is essential.
Sampling Types
There are 3 main ways of taking
Random sampling
Systematic sampling
Stratified sampling (Not covered
in this unit)
What is a Quadrat?
Area in which you search or sample.
Does not necessarily have to be a square.
The apparatus, held by Jo Ann, Anthea &
Jessica in the photo on the right, is an
example of a quadrat.
The picture above shows other examples
of quadrats.
Important Point to Note: Quadrat size in
a particular study must be standardized to
serve as a control so that it is comparable.
Use of Quadrats
Quadrat Sampling
Method by which organisms in a sample of a habitat are counted directly.
May be used without a transect when studying a relatively uniform habitat. In
this case, the quadrat positions are chosen randomly.
Used to estimate population parameters when the organisms present are too
numerous to count in total.
Used to estimate:
population abundance (number),
density frequency of occurance &
Quadrat Sampling
Random Sampling
This is usually carried out when the area
under study is fairly uniform, very large or
when there is a limited time available.
A quadrat frame is most often used for this
type of sampling.
The frame is placed on the ground (or on
whatever is being investigated) & the
animals &/ or plants inside it is counted,
measured, or collected.
This is done many times at different points
within the habitat to give a large number of
When working with quadrats like the one on the right,
you have to decide on the extent to which each
organism type appeared, and make a note according
to how abundant it was; an abundance scale.
This enables the investigator to make quick estimates.
This could be done by working out rough percentages
cover of species based on a scale whose name is an
acronym of the various levels (ACFOR).
A = Abundant (Greater than or equal to 30%)
C = Common (20% - 29%)
F = Frequent (10% - 19%)
O = Occasional (5% - 9%)
R = Rare (1% - 4%)
Systematic Sampling
Samples are taken at fixed intervals,
usually along a line known as a
E.g. grid sampling, line transects,
belt transects.
This normally involves doing
transects, where a sampling line is
set up across areas to where there
are clear environment gradients.
E.g. you might use a transect
line to show changes in flora
and fauna of the seashore from
the top of the beach down to the
Grid Quadrats
The quadrat on the right is a grid quadrat and it is
more accurate than the ACFOR scale.
Systematic Sampling
There are two types of systematic sampling:
Line transects
Belt transects
Systematic Sampling
Line Transects Vs Belt
Line transects can reveal species
zonation patterns along the line by
showing where particular species
occur along the line.
Belt transects show not only
where species occur but also how
much of it is present at any point
along the line.
Mark & Recapture
„Mark & Recapture‟
Method used to estimate the population size of animal populations where
individuals are highly mobile.
The population is sampled by capturing as many of the individuals as possible
& practical.
Each individual is marked in a way to distinguish it from the unmarked
The marked animals are returned to their habitat & left for long enough a
period for complete mixing with the rest of the population to take place.
Another sample of the population is then taken.
The numbers of marked to unmarked animals in the second sample is
determined using the Lincoln Index.
„Mark & Recapture‟
Mark & Recapture
Sandhoppers in an exposed rocky
shore being captured.
Sandhoppers being „marked‟ before
Mark & Recapture -
Size of the population doesn‟t change during the
experiment i.e. births, deaths, immigration & emigration
do not occur.
The „mark‟ should last the duration of the experiment.
The marking procedure & paint should not harm the
This method is only applicable if the population is
discrete, inhabits a defined area & whose individuals mix
at random.
There should be no “trap-happy” or “trap-shy” individuals
in the population.
How Big Must The
Sample Size Be?
Always go for as large a sample size as you can get, even if each of
your samples is „sloppy‟ & „noisy.‟
A large, unbiased set of samples will average over the „noise.‟
A large sample size can rescue imprecise measurements, but it
cannot rescue biased measurements.
If the sample size is very large, two populations can be statistically
different with means that are quite close.
On the other hand, if the sample size is small, two populations that
are actually quite different will not appear significantly different.