Great Crested Newt Ecology
Great crested newts Triturus cristatus spend the majority of their lives on land, but must migrate to water in order to breed. This migration occurs in early spring, with most newts arriving at the ponds by mid-March. Courtship and egg laying then takes place until mid-May. At the end of the breeding season the adults begin to leave the ponds, while the larvae remain in the ponds for a further 2-3 months until they have completed metamorphosis. It takes juveniles 2-4 years to reach sexual maturity and they will spend this time on land, returning to the ponds when they are ready to breed. Adults hibernate from October through to February, finding protection in refuges such as amongst tree roots, deadwood and rubble piles.
Protection and legislation
Great crested newts are fully protected under The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).
It is an offence to;
- Deliberately capture, injure or kill
- Deliberately disturb
- Damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place
- Possess or advertise/sell/exchange (dead or alive) or any part of
- Phase 1- Habitat suitability index (HSI): Any ponds identified either onsite or within the vicinity of the site (up to 500m) will be assessed during daylight for suitability to be used by great crested newts, utilising the modified Great Crested Newt Habitat Suitability Index (Oldham et al, 2000). The habitat suitability index (HSI) provides a means of evaluating habitat quality by ascribing a numerical value to various environmental factors.
- Phase 2- Determining Presence/Absence: Presence/absence survey requires four nights surveying using a minimum of three survey techniques per survey (bottle trapping, torch light surveys, egg searches, netting and terrestrial searches).
- Phase 3- Population Size Class Assessment: If great crested newts are found during the above surveys, then a total of six surveys of the water body will be required using traditional survey techniques, in order to provide a population size class assessment.
Presence/absence and population size class assessments are seasonally constrained to between mid-March to mid-June with at least 50% of the surveys undertaken between mid-April and mid-May.
Abricon Ltds trained and licensed surveyors are also able to offer Environmental DNA (eDNA) surveys for great crested newts. This involve analysis of water samples for great crested newts and can be completed between 15th April and 30th June.
Licensing and Mitigation
Works which will impact upon great crested newts may require a derogation licence to be obtained from the appropriate statutory body for nature conservation prior to the start of works. A mitigation licence permits operations which would otherwise constitute an offence and will only be approved if it includes a suitable mitigation plan and is completed by a licensed ecologist.