A pilot project by Natural England will see testing of pond water for traces of newt DNA. This new survey technique will allow for insight into the size, location and connectivity of great crested newt (GCN) populations. It is also thought the new survey technique will reduce costs and save time for developers.
The information collected by the scheme taking place in Woking will be used to create pre-made conservation plans giving developers a head start. The most significant populations and habitats for GCNs will be retained. Areas will be identified where development has minimal impact on GCNs, and finally locations for new habitats will be identified. The council will then develop the new habitats, meaning there will already be a net gain of GCN habitats before development begins. This will make trapping and translocation of the amphibians more efficient and reduce the time spent on surveying and creating plans to mitigate the GCN habitat disruption or destruction.
The pilot project being launched this autumn will be reviewed by Natural England with its local and national partners and with the development industry. Before the pilot is rolled out to further areas a robust methodology and scientific evidence will be needed to prove it is a winner for GCNs. It is hoped all organisations with an interest in GCNs will get involved with co-design and evaluating this new approach.
If this new technique has positive outcomes it will be a win-win situation for developers and GCNs.