Cutting the Red Tape? How about feeding it through the shredder… French genomics outfit, Spygen, have developed a discrete environmental DNA sampling and analysis technique for a variety of amphibious …read more
The technical term for this survey is a Habitat Suitability Index, for great crested newts. This type of newt survey is done in daylight hours and therefore can be undertaken at any time of year.
The cliff notes are that your site will be classified as either poor, excellent or somewhere in between. Anything classified as ‘average’ or better will trigger phase 2 great crested newt surveys. Anything classified as below average or poor will not, suggesting instead that the risk of harm to newts at your site, arising from your development plans, is acceptably low – so as to be considered insignificant. (…Unlike the site below, visited by our surveyor Craig Williams in March of 2014.)
— Arbtech (@SuperFastSurvey) March 26, 2014
Of course, it is true that many of you reading this will have already been told by your local planning authority that you need a great crested newt survey to validate your application. That being the case, we can have this sorted for you in a jiffy. All of our ecological consultants are capable of undertaking Habitat Suitability surveys for our amphibious friends and many of us have European protected species licences to assist with newt translocation and mitigation.
The calculations above do not allow for your HSI score to be exactly zero, since the lowest score in any one of the 10 categories assessed is 0.01, as otherwise it would imply that the ecologist knows to a certainty that great crested newts are not present, which however likely, clearly isn’t true in the strictest sense. However, equally, it is not possible to simply design mitigation (and skip a step) just because the HSI for the site grades the habitat as ‘excellent’.
Essentially, the HSI is a useful scoping tool that in the majority of instances can eliminate the need for phase 2 surveys at your site. In the reverse scenario, where your habitat is graded as average or better, you will not be able to progress your planning application without the benefit of and accompanying report of full ‘phase 2′ great crested newt surveys – seasonally limited from mid-March to mid-June.
However, in the future it might be possible to determine the presence or absence of great crested newts, by simply taking a sample of the water and sending it off for eDNA analysis, which will dramatically reduce the time it takes to produce your survey and report, to say nothing of probably halving the costs, and within reason, this could be done at any time of the year!
— CIEEM (@InstEcolEnvMan) March 28, 2014
Oldham R.S., Keeble J., Swan M.J.S. & Jeffcote M. (2000). Evaluating the suitability of habitat for the Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus). Herpetological Journal 10(4), 143-155.
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