Great Crested Newt Surveys
GCN & the Law
Great Crested Newts (often abbreviated to GCN) are small amphibians, distinguishable from Britain's other newt species by their bright orange spotted belly and their large size. During the breeding season, males display a distinctive serrated crest along their body, which gives them their name.
Although the UK is regarded as supporting one of the largest populations within Europe, they have nevertheless suffered declines in recent years through the infilling of ponds, desiccation and the loss of habitat. As such Great Crested Newts are afforded full protection under the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981) and the Habitats Regulations (2017). This protects both its aquatic (typically ponds) and terrestrial habitat from damage or destruction.
They require a varied terrestrial and aquatic habitat to survive and will often form a 'meta-population' linked to other ponds within the wider landscape through the movement of individuals.
They spend the majority of their time on land (hibernating over winter), only returning to water during the breeding season.
Habitat Suitability Index
If a water body is identified within 500 m of a proposed development then a Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) test will be carried out. This is a standard methodology for 'scoring' a pond's suitability for supporting Great Crested Newt based on 10 features of the pond and surrounding habitat. If the pond is assessed as being of 'moderate' suitability or above, then further survey work may be required.
Phase II eDNA analysis
eDNA is a relatively new method of surveying for GCN, in which water samples are taken from the pond and sent to a laboratory for DNA analysis to determine if GCN are in the pond. The DNA of GCN only lasts approximately 20 days in the water, therefore water samples must be taken in the appropriate season to determine presence or absence. Although this is a much more cost-effective method of establishing likely absence, it does not measure population size. Therefore if the eDNA test is positive, further Phase II Surveys are required to inform a European Protected Species Licence application.
Phase II surveys
Traditional survey methods for GCN will take place during early spring when the newts will return to their ponds to breed. A number of methods can be employed, dependent on the features of the pond, but these typically include:
- Bottle trapping
- Searching macrophytes for eggs
Due to the level of protection for GCN, surveys can only be undertaken by an appropriately licensed worker.
If reptiles are found on site then we will create a mitigation strategy that will need to be submitted to the Local Planning Authority detailing measures that will be taken to lessen harm or killing of reptiles on site. Where appropriate a suitable area is retained on site and reptiles within the impacted area are captured and released within the chosen receptor site. Ecosupport can enhance your site for reptiles through habitat management and installation of hibernacula within the site.
Licence & mitigation
If GCN are found in the proximity of the site and their terrestrial or aquatic habitat will be impacted in any way, a European Protected Species Licence and appropriate mitigation will be required before works can be undertaken. Often, a GCN translocation is required if works will impact their terrestrial habitat.
We have several team members who are licensed to undertake GCN work including survey and mitigation and we have a successful history of undertaking all appropriate requirements under an EPS licence.
In addition, our habitat management team can enhance your site for GCN and is well-equipped to create new habitat with enhancements such as the installation of wildlife ponds, hibernacula and increasing terrestrial habitat with management.