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Complex Environmental Assessment of Human Impact on an Area

© Alexsander S. Bogolyubov, Russia, 2000

© Michael J. Brody, USA, 2003

Complex Environmental Assessment of Human Impact on an Area This manual contains a procedure for human impact study, which allows us to quantitatively evaluate the degree of disturbance and the influence of human activities on the main landscape components: relief, vegetation and soils. This study is based on the route counting of local objects of human impact. The procedure is applicable for forested zones.

This field study has instructional video featuring real students conducting the ecological field techniques in nature. Each video illustrates the primary instructional outcomes and the major steps in accomplishing the task including reporting the results.


When conducting complex environmental expeditions, practical work and environmental camps, young environmentalists and their leaders often face a task of the quantitative estimate of total human impact on the surrounding environment. This manual provides a simple procedure for conducting a complex route count of objects of human impact on the area.

This lesson and the study procedure itself are developed primarily for research in the forested zone Ц in the vicinities of a city, in a Forest Park or in a large city park. This procedure is not applicable for small-forested areas less than ? square kilometer. In this case it should be replaced by mapping the objects of human impact.

This study can be carried out by a group of students who do not have skills or experience in complicated field research work. This work does not require special knowledge of the names of animals or plants species (except some main tree and shrub species). Only the well-coordinated work of the whole group is needed en route.

Methods (Procedure) of route counting

General information (Basic principles)

Route counting of objects of human impact (HI) is aimed at discovering the local forms of human impact on the environment, which can be revealed and described based on cartographic documents. This applies, firstly, to anthropogeneous damages of microrelief, soil, vegetation and wildlife. While counting of objects of human impact, the main types of plant associations are also registered as a foundation of the studied landscape.

Route counting allows us to obtain quantitative data on the anthropogeneous load on the local environment, which can be compared with analogue data collected in other areas and in other regions.

In order to compose valuable characteristics of HI on the selected area it is advised to locate a counting route, which crosses typical habitats within the boundaries of the selected area.

Counting is based on the method of the Уrandom" route, which is a straight-lined route (without using roads) chosen with the help of a compass. The route can be straight-lined and closed-looped (rectangular or triangle, but not circular) returning to the starting point.

One should bear in mind when calculating the total length of the route, that longer the route is, more precise (valid) the data is. The total length of the route should not be less than two to four kilometers.

List of objects for route count of human impact objects and environmental conditions

In order to make counting easier, all objects of human impact are divided into three groups: 1) "measurableФ objects: they have different sizes and their length can be measured. 2) "Un-measurableФ objects: these objects usually have a Уstandard size,Ф and 3) УspotФ or УpointФ objects: they are equally distributed in the area as a rule.

УMeasurableФ objects are the following:

Anthropogeneous forms of microrelief: irrigation ditches, pits, rain rills and gullies that are artificial in origin, embankments, bars, bumps, terraces on slopes etc.;

Soil and herbaceous vegetation damages caused by humans - vast areas damaged by heavy vehicles, highways and country roads, paths, pits, grooves, garbage dumps, cattle tracks, large soil trampling areas

Artificial water bodies and waterways - ponds, swamped areas, soil-reclamation and other canals, drainage systems and so on;

forest anthropogenic damage - forest openings (various causes: forest management cuttings, cuttings for electric power and communication lines, forest roads and pipelines), felling grounds and burned-out forest areas.

Besides the description of human impact, the main types of plant communities (associations) along the route should be also described. In the Moscow region, for example, the following communities can be seen: spruce, pine, small-leaved, mixed...


This was only the first page from the manual and its full version you can see in the

Ecological Field Studies 4CD Set:

It is possible to purchase the complete set of 40 seasonal Ecological Field Study Materials (video in mpg + manuals in pdf formats) in an attractive 4 compact disk set. These compact disks are compatible with Mac and PC computers. The teacher background information and manuals can be printed out for easy reference. The videos are suitable for individual student or whole class instruction. To purchase the complete 4CD set write to in a free form.

Ecological Field Studies 4CD Set

Some of these manuals you can also purchase in the form of applications for Android devices on Google Play.

Ecological Field Studies Demo Disk:

We also have a free and interesting demonstration disk that explains our ecological field studies approach. The demo disk has short excerpts from all the seasonal field study videos as well as sample text from all the teacher manuals. The disk has an entertaining automatic walk through which describes the field study approach and explains how field studies meet education standards.

You can also download the Demo Disc from This is a virtual hybrid (for PC and Mac computers) CD-ROM image (one 563 Mb file "CD_Demo.iso"). You can write this image to the CD and use it in your computer in ordinary way. You also can use emulator software of virtual CD-ROM drive to play the disk directly from your hard disk.

Ecological Field Studies Demo Disk


Other Ecological Field Studies Instructive Manuals:

Autumn Season

  1. Orienteering in the Forest
  2. Procedure of the Geological Exposure Description
  3. Plotting a Profile of a River Valley Slope
  4. Simple Procedure of Soil Description
  5. Assessment of the Vital State of a Forest Based on Pine-tree Analysis
  6. Study of Species Composition and Number of Fungi
  7. Study of Species Composition and Census of Birds Using the Line Transect-counting Method
  8. Integrated Study Based on Landscape Profile
  9. Complex Environmental Assessment of Human Impact on an Area
  10. Assessment of Air Pollution by Lichen Indication Method

Winter Season

  1. Making a Campfire
  2. Simple УEyeФ Survey of the Field Study Site
  3. Study of Growth Dynamics of Trees Based on Annual Rings
  4. Mapping Forest Vegetation
  5. Green Plants Under Snow
  6. Methods of Observation of a Chickadee Flock's Territorial Behavior
  7. Procedure of Winter Mammals Route Census by Footprints
  8. Study of Mammal Ecology According to Their Tracks
  9. Physical and Chemical Properties of Natural Waters
  10. Study of Snow Cover Profile

Spring Season

  1. Let's Help Birds!
  2. Study of the Ecology of Early Flowering Plants
  3. Phenology of Plant Florescence
  4. Assessment of the Vital State of Coniferous Underbrush
  5. Study of Forest Invertebrates (Part I: Forest Litter, Wood)
  6. Studies of Species Composition and Abundance of Amphibians
  7. Studying Minerals and Rocks in Your Area
  8. Studies of the Day Activity of Singing Birds
  9. Studies of Bird Populations Size by Different Methods
  10. Study of Fauna of Spring Temporary Water Bodies

Summer Season

  1. Making a Herbarium
  2. The Study of Plants in Your Local Environment
  3. Study of the Vertical Structure of a Forest
  4. Study of Forest Invertebrates (Part 2: Grass Layer, Tree Crowns and Air)
  5. Study of BirdsТ Nesting Life
  6. Complex Comparative Description of Small Rivers and Streams
  7. The Study of Water Invertebrates in a Local River and Assessment of Its Environmental State
  8. Study of Plankton
  9. Assessment of Ecological Features of Meadows on the Base of Vegetation Cover
  10. Assessment of Environmental State of the Forest Based on LeavesТ Asymmetry

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© Ёкологический центр "Ёкосистема"Щ, ј.—. Ѕоголюбов / © Field Ecology Center "Ecosystem"Щ, Alexander Bogolyubov, 2001-2017