Great Crested Newt Surveys
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UK laws require a great crested newt survey to be submitted for development projects near their habitats and only experienced, licenced ecologists are allowed to carry out this type of survey.
What Is a Great Crested Newt Survey?
As the name implies, a great crested newt (GCN) survey is an assessment conducted to determine the presence and population status of great crested newts, Triturus cristatus. Of course, the former process requires a licensed ecologist.
Typically, these surveys are carried out in the following cases:
- Areas that have suitable habitats to support newts’ growth or where newts are known to inhabit
- Before carrying out new development and construction projects that may affect those protected species
- If you’re not sure whether newts are present on the construction site
- Whether the new development project will affect the protected species or not.
Why Is a Great Crested Newt Survey Important?
Great crested newt surveys are important for several reasons. For starters, those species are endangered, mainly due to habitat destruction.
Various British laws protect those amphibians, including the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act. The 2006 National Environment and Rural Communities Act listed great crested newts as species of principal importance.
Not only that, but under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, crested newts are also listed as a European Protected Species (EPS).
As you can see, endangering those species is an offence. So, developers must conduct the ecological survey to avoid legal issues.
Aside from compliance with legal requirements, these surveys help gather essential data about the newts’ habitat, population size, distribution, and more.
Such information is crucial for developing effective conservation strategies to ensure the long-term survival of great crested newts.
Great Crested Newt Methodology
Now, there are various techniques ecologists use to conduct a GCN survey. Those include daytime inspection, pond assessment, and habitat suitability index. Other detailed methods include egg searching, torchlight surveys, and more.
Regardless of the method, only a highly qualified, licensed ecologist, such as those provided by Indigo Surveys, can carry out the survey. Here’s a brief explanation of some of the common approaches ecologists and our team members use:
Torching is one of the most effective traditional amphibian surveys. As the name implies, the process involves using a powerful torch, ideally around 500,000 to 1 million candle power.
The ecologist team navigates the pond after dusk to search for the newts. They do so by dividing the pond’s parameters into sections and shining the torch in the water from the banks and back at a steady pace.
That’s to avoid disrupting the water’s surface, which can scare the amphibians away. Usually, the same procedure is repeated four times between April and June.
This process not only helps identify the presence of newts, but it also gives an estimate of the total number present in the pond.
Typically, egg searching happens during the torchlight surveys. It helps detect newts in a pond.
Like most amphibians, female great crested newts lay numerous eggs—around 200. They usually wrap them inside a pond plant’s leaves.
During egg searching, ecologists look for rolled leaves to identify newt eggs. Confirming one batch of eggs is enough since unfolding the vegetation exposes the eggs to predation, UV, and diseases.
This method is probably the most efficient for detecting the newt population in a pond. That’s especially true for turbid water with plenty of weeds and vegetation. Torchlight surveys in those habitats are less effective.
The process involves submerging aquatic bottle traps into the water, usually in the early evening. Newts swim during the night, and once captured in the traps, they’re unable to escape.
The ecologist team then visits the pod in the early morning to record and release the newts.
Since this process causes a disturbance at the pond, only a surveyor with at least licence 1 can perform this method.
Habitat Suitability Index
Simply put, the habitat suitability index, or HSI, is a quantitative measure used to evaluate the suitability of a habitat for a particular species.
The process involves mathematically combining several habitat characteristics, like water quality and other environmental variables, to produce a score. Ecologists select these factors based on scientific knowledge of the species’ environmental requirements and preferences.
Based on the HSI score, the pond can have five assessments. Those are poor, below average, average, good, or excellent suitability for supporting GCN.
What Happens After the Great Crested Newt Survey?
Following the survey, we prepare a report suitable for submission with the planning application. If the survey concludes that no newts were found, the developer can proceed with the plan without a licence.
Likewise, no licence is needed if the proposed activities are unlikely to cause an offence.
However, if newts inhabited the area, that’s a different story. The developer has two options: adapt the construction plan or submit a mitigation plan.
The former includes:
- Adjusting the development site to be around the habitats
- Avoid building main roads or other facilities that’ll provide permanent access to the newt ponds
- Redesigning drainage systems, connecting structures like bridges, and so on
However, if adjusting the existing development plan isn’t possible, the developer must provide a mitigation plan and obtain an EPS licence. Our experienced ecologists can help you with both.
Great Crested Newt Mitigation
Now, you might be wondering: what is a mitigation plan?
The former is a process that addresses how the development plan will impact the GCN population and the proposed solutions to protect the endangered species.
A GCN survey will contain a mitigation plan section discussing mitigation, avoidance, and compensation measures.
Some of the solutions ecologists suggest include:
- Pond design and creation
- Improvement of existing habitats
- Restoration or creation of both aquatic and terrestrial habitats
- Temporary Fencing
- Post-development monitoring
Trust Indigo Surveys with your GCN Survey
As you can see, a great crested newt survey plays a pivotal role in protecting this endangered species. It’s also essential to comply with legal obligations and develop effective conservation strategies.
With our team of experienced ecological specialists, we utilise several GCN survey techniques, such as bottle trapping, HSI, egg searching, pond assessments, and more, to provide you with accurate results.
We also provide several mitigation services to help you proceed with your development proposal, whether it’s a small- or large-scale project.
Great Crested Newt Survey FAQs
Still have some questions? Check out the following FAQs!
Q. How are great crested newts protected by the law?
Several laws state that it’s an offence to:
- Injure or kill great crested newts intentionally
- Damage or destroy GCN natural habitats or shelters
- Destroy a breeding site
- Capture or possess a GCN unlawfully
- Transport great crested newts or their eggs for trading or non-trading purposes
Q. What is the penalty for endangering a great crested newt?
Endangering great crested newts in the UK carries significant penalties. You get fined up to £5,000 for each offence committed. Offenders can also serve up to 6 months in prison.
Q. How often should GCN surveys be carried out?
GCN surveys should be carried out four times during the appropriate session. The former is typically between mid-March and June. However, at least two or more visits should be conducted in April to mid-May, when the GCN are most active due to the breeding season.