Great crested newt surveys
What we offer
Greenlight Environmental Consultancy offers a wide range of services with respect to great crested newt surveys, including:
- Preliminary Ecological Appraisals (“PEA”) – This is an initial site assessment to identify habitats present on site that may support protected species. This includes a site visit and a desktop assessment. A PEA is typically required as a first step to address the ecological aspects of a planning application. The PEA would recommend if further great crested newt surveys are necessary, and appropriate mitigation and enhancements for the proposed development.
- Habitat Suitability Index (“HSI”) – This allows the surveyor to evaluating the general likeliness of a pond to be occupied by great crested newts. The HSI, using ten suitability indices which are factors thought to affect great crested newts, can be calculated at any time of the year although the period from May to the end of September is more suitable.
- eDNA sampling – This survey consists of collecting water samples from a pond for further laboratory analysis. This gives a quick great crested newt presence/absence result and can have a better rate of detection than conventional great crested newt surveys. Water samples can be collected from 15th April to 30th June. Please note that if eDNA sampling returns a positive result, population estimate surveys will be required.
- Presence/absence surveys – When suitable great crested newt water features are found within or near a site for development, great crested newt surveys may be conducted to determine the presence or likely absence of the species. This usually includes four survey visits in suitable weather conditions between mid-March and mid-June. During each visit, three different survey methods should be used, preferably torch survey, bottle trapping and egg searching.
- Population estimates – If great crested newts are present within a water feature, a minimum of six survey visits, using bottle trapping and torching survey methods, should be undertaken in suitable weather conditions between mid-March and mid-June. These will enable the surveyors to estimate whether the great crested newt population is small, medium or large, and advise on appropriate mitigation.
- European Protected Species Mitigation Licences – If works are expected to have an impact on great crested newt, a mitigation licence will need to be granted by Natural England in order to proceed with the works. The licence should include sufficient information on the great crested newt population present on or near the site (survey results), and appropriate mitigation measures.
- Translocation works – This includes capturing GCN, often using amphibian proof drift fencing and pitfall traps, and moving great crested newt from the site, less than 1 km away, to a safe receptor area with equivalent or better habitats. The amount of capture effort needed to clear an area of newts will depend on the size of the impacted great crested newt population. Translocation can only be done under a mitigation licence granted by Natural England and should be used as a last resort.
- Installation and removal of mitigation fencing – Amphibian proof fencing is used to seal the perimeter of a site for development in order to help capture great crested newt within this site, and to avoid re-colonisation.
- Overseeing works (including toolbox talks and destructive searches) – This includes a watching brief during construction works to avoid killing or injuring individual newts. The hand search and destructive search are to be conducted only after a capture program and aim to find remaining newts which may be difficult to detect under shelters
The great crested newt is the largest native species of newt in the UK and the most threatened. They have declined significantly over the latter part of the 20th century, due to agricultural intensification and the consequent loss, degradation and fragmentation of habitats. They mainly occur in lowland regions, where they require good quality aquatic and terrestrial habitats in close proximity (English Nature 2001; Langton et al. 2001).
Aquatic habitats are mostly used for breeding and foraging, where males display on the pond floor. Terrestrial habitats are used for commuting between ponds and hibernation sites, foraging and for shelter and hibernation, where they prefer areas of vegetated ground cover and dead wood. Males may disperse over 1km and thus barriers such as, roads with high traffic volume or large expanses of farmland, can lead to habitat fragmentation and population isolation (Langton et al. 2001).
Great crested newts are protected under UK and European Union (“EU”) laws, including:
- Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended)
- The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010
- Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000
Under these legislations great crested newts are protected from:
- Capturing, killing, injuring and disturbing;
- Taking or destroying eggs;
- Damaging or destroying breeding/resting places;
- Obstructing access to resting places; and
- Possessing, advertising for sale, selling or transporting for sale, live or dead (part or derivative).
In simple terms: all development proposals that have the potential to impact on local biodiversity, and Local Planning Authorities (“LPA”) require sufficient information to make informed decisions that wildlife can be protected from injury or disturbance during the development. They often require a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (“PEA”), and further great crested newt surveys if this species is likely to be present.
If great crested newts are present on a site for development, it is likely that a European protected species (“EPS”) license and an appropriate mitigation strategy will be required in order to proceed with the works.
Great crested newts need both aquatic and terrestrial habitat. They occur more frequently in clusters of small to medium sized ponds (50-250m2), with at least one breeding pond. Breeding ponds require aquatic vegetation for egg laying, open areas for males to display and, ideally, lack shade on the southern margin. Great crested newts do not necessarily require permanent ponds, as periodic drying out reduces the abundance of some newt predators such as dragonfly larvae and fish (Langton et al. 2001).
Terrestrial habitats require permanent areas of refuge habitat (e.g. rough grassland, scrub, woodland, log and rubble piles, etc.), daytime refuges (e.g. thick ground cover, under fallen trees, etc.) and foraging and dispersal opportunities. Barriers to regulate migration and dispersal include roads with high traffic volume, built-up areas, large or fast-flowing rivers and large expanses of intensively farmed land (Langton et al. 2001).
Great crested newt surveys are highly seasonal and although an initial assessment (PEA and HSI) can be conducted at any time of year, presence/absence and eDNA surveys can only be conducted between March and June. Please note that if eDNA sampling returns a positive result, further great crested newt surveys will be required in the form of population estimates.
Mitigation and enhancements
There are numerous forms of mitigation and enhancements, with each design being tailored specifically to address issues raised at the site in question. Previous mitigation designs have included the installation of amphibian fencing and translocation of individual great crested newt, creation of artificial ponds, hibernacula and grasslands, and pond restoration. Enhancements may include any of the above mitigation designs and planting of hedgerows.
English Nature (2001), Great crested newt mitigation guidelines. English Nature, Peterborough.
Langton, T.E.S., Beckett, C.L., and Foster, J.P. (2001), Great crested newt conservation handbook, Froglife, Halesworth.