Quantifying Qualitative contents of Quadrats with a metal detector – by Grace Lawrie

On August 18th a small group of volunteers joined Daisy, Jen and a visiting Health and Safety Officer at Shiel Farm to locate quadrats that had been previously spread out over the site. Each quadrat squared off an area of 2 m2 that was representative of the plants in that part of the peatland.


(Square meter quadrat on grass, n.d.)


The quadrats that we were seeking had actually been marked off at each corner with metal poles below ground. This meant that we had the chance to play with a very clever toy – a metal detector! Locating the quadrats was a lot easier than expected. We were a bit nervous as we only had a map with their GPS coordinates. We each got the chance to have a go, although no valuable treasures were found – yet…


Sally Gray using the metal detector.


Once we found each quadrat, we temporarily marked off the sampling area using bamboo canes at the corners. We took turns in recording the data, working through a list of plant species of interest within the area and descriptors of it, and the surrounding land – such as the presence of trees, whilst the remaining team members identified and counted each plant species.


Quadrat marked off using bamboo canes.


Our data was recorded using the Domin scale, named after the botanist Karel Domin (1882 – 1953) (Wikipedia, 2016). This type of scale is really useful for when there is a wide range of the number of each species, as for our purpose where sometimes there were only a few individual plants, and at other times the whole area could be populated by one plant.

We used the following table to record plant cover by abundance (when the number was low) and as a percentage (when the number was higher) with values from 1 -10.

Value Domin scale
10 91-100 %
9 76 -90 %
8 51 -75 %
7 34 -50 %
6 26 -33 %
5 11 -25 %
4 4 -10 %
3 1 -3 %
2 Less than 1 %
1 1 -2 individuals

Personally, I was pleased to learn about this method of recording and the terms, ‘cover-abundance’ and ‘phytosociology’ (vegetation science) following our day at part of the site of the CEI’s peatland enhancement project, which will become an RSPB reserve in the future. It is a great privilege to contribute to the conservation of Scotland’s wildlife.



[Square meter quadrat on grass] (n.d.) [Online].

Available at https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/SquareMeterQuadrat.JPG

Wikipedia (2016) Karel Domin [Online], 19 August 2016. Available at

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karel_Domin (Accessed 5 September 2016)