23 Apr 2019 Great Crested Newt eDNA surveys: how to save money and avoid delays in planning
Environmental DNA (eDNA) survey can provide a rapid and cost effective means of determining the presence or likely absence of great crested newts. This short article gives some insight into the benefits and limitations of the technique.
Why Survey for Great Crested Newt?
Great crested newts are subject to strict legal protection. Development that may result in killing or injury of great crested newt, or the places they use for shelter, is an offence.
Evidence that the presence or likely absence of protected species (including great crested newt) has been appropriately considered is also a material consideration of planning. Such information is generally required by the planning authority prior to the validation of an application.
Why eDNA survey?
The major benefit of an eDNA survey is that one visit completed at the right time of year can confirm the presence or likely absence of great crested newt. It is more labour intensive to survey using conventional methods (such as bottle trapping, egg searching and torching). To reach a negative conclusion using conventional methods, four visits are required.
Timing of Survey
eDNA sampling will generally only be acceptable to the statutory nature conservation agencies (Natural England and Natural Resources Wales) if samples are taken between 15 April and 30 June by an appropriately licenced ecologist.
eDNA data (and conventional survey data) can be relied upon for two years. Following this it needs to be refreshed.
In the event of a negative outcome, no additional survey is required, and no further information on great crested newts should be needed for planning. Generally, in the event of a positive result, eDNA surveys do not provide sufficient information for licensing; additional conventional survey work is needed to determine the size of the population of great crested newts present, and to design proportionate mitigation. It follows that the earlier in the acceptable period eDNA surveys are completed, the greater the opportunity to collect all the information required for great crested newt in the same year, as six survey visits will be needed, and these have to be spread across the spring.
If you need any advice with regard to great crested newts, please get in touch with one of our offices.
For further information about eDNA survey, see our article Making The Best Use Of EDNA Survey For Great Crested Newts – Opportunities And Limitations and for information about our great crested newt survey capability see our GCN service page.
Top image taken by Senior Ecologist Daniel Foster