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Great crested newt projects

Client: Taunton Deane Borough Council

 

Sector: Protected Species Survey and Management Planning

 

Project at a Glance

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Taunton Deane Borough Council (TDBC) were keen to fund a project mapping new great crested newt sites.
Great crested newts are largely under-recorded in the southwest, and prior knowledge of populations and networks of breeding ponds will help inform ecologically sensitive decision making at the planning stage. Furthermore, TDBC wanted to identify important ponds in need of restoration in order to bolster vulnerable newt populations on public land and areas allocated for new residential and business development.

 

The First Ecology Solution

 

First Ecology first mapped all ponds on public land within designated buffers surrounding the new development areas. Selection based on size and circularity of water bodies further narrowed this subset, and maps of all remaining ponds were produced. Habitat Suitability Index assessments of more than ninety-five ponds were then performed in the space of 10 days, in order to determine which of the suite of ponds was suitable for torching and bottle-trapping.

Twenty-five ponds were then surveyed using torches and bottle-traps, the more favorable ponds being visited multiple times to gain more accurate population estimates.

 

Outcomes and Benefits

 

Reporting of the project focused on mapping the surveyed populations of great crested newts, palmate and smooth newts. Additionally, advice on the restoration and protection of the ponds judged to be most important to populations remaining at a favorable conservation status was given on a pond-by-pond basis.

 

This work will allow TDBC to engage with future developers equipped with knowledge of great crested newt populations at the start of the planning process. This will ensure the ecological needs of great crested newts can be incorporated in to the design process, resulting in reduced impacts and improved mitigation measures.

 

Furthermore, the study allows for a targeted landscape scale restoration plan of ponds in close proximity to known populations, with the aim of increasing the range of the species over the project area.