Great Crested Newt Biology
Like all British amphibians, great crested newts (Triturus cristatus) rely on waterbodies for breeding but otherwise they spend much of their lives on land. The majority of adult great crested newts reach their breeding ponds by mid-March. The peak courtship and egg-laying period is normally from mid-March to mid-May.
Once the larvae have completed the transition from aquatic larvae to land-adapted juveniles, they emerge from the pond. This emergence generally begins in early August and lasts for around two months. It then takes between two and four years to reach sexual maturity, during which time the immature newts will be largely based on land.
Adults and immature newts spend the winter in places that afford protection from frost and flooding, often underground amongst tree roots, in mammal burrows, or above ground under suitable refuges like deadwood or rubble piles. Hibernation may last from October to February. For their size, great crested newts are relatively long-lived animals. Exceptionally, adults can live for over 15 years, but the majority will survive only a few years past sexual maturity.
‘I was very impressed with the ability of Five Valleys Ecology to respond quickly to undertake a great crested newt survey on one of our projects near Swindon. They were very professional and knowledgeable and helped us address a potential risk to the project commencing. I would have no hesitation in recommending or using them again’.
Steven Lee, Environment Agency
The great crested newt has suffered a major decline in Britain over the last century through habitat loss and fragmentation and a decline in habitat quality due to poor management. Smaller, more isolated populations are more vulnerable to extinction than larger, well-connected populations. A similar pattern of decline has also been noted across the European range of the great crested newt.
Legislation and Policy
Great crested newts are protected under both British and European law. Together these provide strict protection of the species and its habitat. Where a European Protected Species (EPS), such as great crested newts, would be impacted by a development, it may be possible to obtain an EPS licence from Natural England (NE), who are the statutory nature conservation regulators in the UK, to derogate from the legislation and allow an otherwise unlawful act to proceed. In addition, great crested newts are protected under planning policy at national, regional and local level.
Great Crested Newt Surveys
Any development or proposal which occurs within 500m of suitable aquatic habitat which has a reasonable likelihood of supporting great crested newts, needs to be considered in any development proposal. Surveys need to be undertaken to ensure accurate assessment of the site and any great crested newt population present. In the absence of survey data, it is difficult to accurately predict the impact of development upon a population of great crested newts, and to design appropriate mitigation.
All great crested newt surveys undertaken by Five Valleys Ecology are designed to comply with stringent EPS licensing requirements following best practise guidance (English Nature, 1991). The majority of our ecologists hold survey licenses for great crested newts, and possess a wealth of survey experience, together with detailed knowledge of appropriate mitigation designs. All our ecologists are experienced in the use of the Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) (Oldham et. al., 2000) to assess the suitability of waterbodies to support great crested newts.
English Nature, 1991. Great Crested Newt Mitigation Guidelines. English Nature, Peterborough.
Oldham, R.S. et. al., 2000. Evaluating the Suitability of Habitat for the Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus). Herpetological Journal. 10, 143-155.