GREAT CRESTED NEWT SURVEYS
GREAT CRESTED NEWT SURVEYS
Like all UK amphibians, Great Crested Newts (GCN) rely on water bodies for breeding but spend the majority of their lives on land. Therefore, even if there are no ponds on your proposed development site, there still could be potential for supporting GCNs.
Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) Survey
The Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) is a system that was developed for assessing a water body’s potential to support breeding Great Crested Newts (GCN). If your site has potential for Great Crested Newts, i.e. terrestrial and/or aquatic habitat, all ponds within 500m of the site will be assessed for their suitability. This survey can be undertaken at any time of the year.
Presence/Absence Surveys and Population Estimate Surveys
Ponds within 500m of the development site, without an effective barrier to dispersal between the pond and the development site and a HSI score >0.5, are visited on four separate occasions between mid-March and mid-June to find out if GCN are present/absent. If GCN are discovered, two further surveys per pond are undertaken to estimate the population size and inform a Mitigation Plan.
An alternative to presence/absence surveys is eDNA. Only one survey is required to prove absence, so in some circumstances, it has the potential to reduce the number of surveys needed, and therefore cost. It also allows for the testing of GCN absence from mid-May to late June.
Great Crested Newts and the Law
Great Crested Newts are protected under both Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 2017 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
Under these pieces of legislation it is an offence to:
Deliberately kill or capture a Great Crested Newt.
Deliberately disturb a Great Crested Newt.
Damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place of a Great Crested Newt.
GCN Bottle Trapping
GCN Bottle Trapping is a reliable method in detecting adults and juveniles and allows accurate identification of the newt species. This involves setting out bottle traps within 2 meters of each other in the correct temperature and weather conditions around the pond before nightfall and returning at dawn to identify, count and release newt species caught.
GCN Pitfall Trapping & Refugia Searches
Pitfall trapping and refugia searches for Great Crested Newts is a method for capturing newt on land. It involves putting up specialised newt fencing, sinking buckets flush into the ground 5 to 10 metres apart, to capture newts as they go towards their breeding ponds.
Laying carpet tiles down on the ground allows newts to use these as refugia places to rest. Both these survey methods are usually used as a last resort if a site must be clear of all newts before a development project can begin. Trapping depends on weather conditions and the time of year. These methods allow you to record the sex, species and life stages of all newts and amphibians. Newts and amphibians are then released to a receptor site, out of the way of the construction zone.
GCN Mitigation Licences
Mitigation licences ensure that construction work can proceed lawfully and without affecting Great Crested Newts and their terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Avoidance measures and mitigation plans inform planners and developers how to proceed, using written method statements on how work should be carried out. This includes details of newly created ponds and new enhanced landscapes.
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