Amphibians are vital components of pond ecosystems and are protected by law. If there are water bodies in the vicinity of your development, an initial Great Crested Newt Survey would be recommended.

GREAT CRESTED NEWTS

In the UK there are three species of native newt, the smooth newt, the palmate newt and the great crested newt. Like all newt species in the UK the great crested newt is an amphibian and can be found both on land and in water. Great crested newts have seen significant declines since the late 20th century due to ever increasing pond loss and habitat fragmentation and are considered rare throughout Europe.

This species occurs in many types of habitat including rural, urban and suburban areas. Although they can be found in many places, they are most often found in small to medium sized ponds but can be found in any body of water including drainage ditches and seasonal pools. A majority of their time is spend on land – in hedgerows, patches of scrub, grassland, woodlands as well as stone and log piles. These tend to be within 500 m of the newt’s chosen breeding pond but they have been known up to extend up to 1 km.

GREAT CRESTED NEWTS AND THE LAW

Great crested newts receive legal protection under the Conservation of Species and Habitats Regulations 2010 (as amended) as well as the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). Under these Acts it is illegal to deliberately injure, kill, capture or disturb great crested newts themselves.

It is also illegal to damage, destroy or obstruct any places used for shelter and protection by great crested newts. Great crested newts can only be surveyed by licensed ecologists, this licence allows the surveyor to both trap and handle newts for the purposes of surveying.

GREAT CRESTED NEWT SURVEYS

As great crested newts are nocturnal so surveys are carried out around dusk and dawn during the survey period. The surveys involve visiting suitable water bodies within 500 m of the potential development as using a variety of methods to determine what species of amphibians are present within the site as well as their population sizes. These techniques include bottle trapping, sweep netting, torch light searching, egg searching and eDNA testing.

Due to the small breeding window of mid-March to mid-June all surveys for great crested newts must be carried out within this window. Further to this there are certain requirements that must be met. A minimum of four surveys must be carried out on water bodies with potential for great crested newts, or six surveys if great crested newts are found in order to assess population sizes. Out of the four to six surveys at least 50% of the survey effort must be carried out between mid-April and mid-May.

eDNA TESTING

As part of the great crested newt survey methodology we can also carry out eDNA testing. eDNA is collected from the environment in which an organism lives, rather than directly from the plants or animals themselves. This new method requires the collection of pond water samples, typically at the same time that a Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) assessment of water bodies is conducted. eDNA testing will only indicated presence or absence of newts within water bodies and cannot be used to estimate population sizes.

This technique can be carried out between mid-April and the 30th June which leaves little space within the survey window to assess population sizes if great crested newts are found. It is for this reason that eDNA is not suitable for all projects.

eDNA surveys are suitable for:

  • Large projects with long lead times. eDNA surveys could be undertaken a year in advance to scope in or out, large numbers of waterbodies with potentially considerable savings to the developer
  • Temporary and low impact developments that may only require presence or absence surveys
  • Small projects with limited risk of great crested newt presence, such as those with low numbers of ponds that are unsuitable for great crested newts.

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WHAT IS THE PROCESS?

View the typical process we go through for a Great Crested Newt Survey
from receipt of your enquiry to planning approval.

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