2.2.7 Example
Summary of a Local Biodiversity Action Plan for the Great Crested Newt

Issue and rationale
Great Crested Newts are becoming scarcer, mostly as a result of loss of their habitat, and not only in Britain but in the rest of Europe too.  This is why they have been protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and the EU’s Habitats and Species Directive.
Great Crested Newts need several different types of habitat during their lives.  But to breed, the one thing they cannot do without is water- typically fair-sized ponds, often in chalky or clay soils, sometimes in gardens or small reservoirs , flooded marl pits, brick pits, or even very slow-moving canals or ditches.  Usually these are more than 100 square metres in area and over 50 cm deep with a fair amount of water plants growing in them.
Newts disperse over land to forage, find shelter and to move between ponds.  Great Crested Newts need at least half a hectare of tussocky grassland contiguous to the pond for foraging and shelter.
In October and November, as temperatures start to fall, Great Crested Newts hibernate, usually on land, and sometimes in groups.  They choose a sheltered, damp, frost free nook, sometimes underground.  In the Spring they emerge to start the a new life cycle.
The presence of routes for dispersal to adjacent ponds is an important factor in maintaining population stability in a particular area.
They tend to lay their eggs in the same pond in which they were hatched.  Fish eat their eggs and tadpoles, and ducks eat waterweed they need for cover and egg-laying, and may even eat tadpoles.  Great Crested Newts are not common in ponds inhabited by fish and waterfowl. 
Finally, there is the issue of public disturbance, either of the fresh water habitat or the adjacent land.
Managing a population of Great Crested Newts requires addressing the above fundamental issues, which are focused firmly on its habitat requirements.

Refs  Facts about great crested newts (English Nature): Great Crested Newt Conservation Handbook (Froglife)

CMS Objective

To maintain the Great Crested Newt in a favourable condition where the measurable attribute of the population is the mean of 6 counts of individuals per year falls.  The target is to maintain this attribute within the range of 150-250 individuals per ha of foraging habitat.

CMS Attribute

The number of individuals counted in bottle traps, torchlight searches, or netting activities.

CMS Management factors

Pond Factors
Decisions about the depth and overall shape of new ponds will be influenced by the purpose for which the pond is being built. For example, dew ponds that are also to be used as a livestock drinking supply may be shallower than those on heavy clay soils in arable farmland. The size of a permanent pond (i.e. one that does not or very rarely dries out) will influence both its capacity to sustain adult newts throughout the year and the number of young that can be produced.
In deeper, larger ponds, the water is more buffered from cold air cooling or freezing the upper layers of water than in shallow ponds, especially in spring and autumn. Temperature influences newt metabolism; ponds in excess of one metre depth are most likely to maintain water temperatures at the bottom that are high enough for newt activity throughout the year. Ponds of less than about 25 square metres surface area tend to have insufficient depth and volume to allow many great crested newt larvae to survive. This may be because of competition, with larvae preying on each other, and bottom dwelling predators being able to find them more easily. Small ponds that are 'topped up' or that receive water from natural sources in late summer may have a better prospect of recruiting young than those that progressively dry out. In conditions where the water table fluctuates greatly, occasional drying out may sometimes favour newts in the long run, as this can result in a large drop in predator numbers, especially fish.
Predicting the variation in pond water levels may require prior survey and testing so that the likely result of high rainfall, and of dry or drought conditions is understood. Altering the profile of a pond after construction may be difficult, although inlet/outlet pipes or ditches can be adjusted.

Water quality
Newts are found in aquatic habitats consisting of clear water with a pH range between slightly below to slightly above neutral.
Like all amphibians, great crested newts have a permeable skin, and are at risk from any chemicals they may encounter. With this in mind, it is recommended that a precautionary approach to exposing newts to chemicals (e.g. landfill leachate, fertilisers and herbicides) is adopted. This means avoid the use of, or prevent access by newts to chemicals wherever possible. Those chemicals that break down quickly to harmless substances are preferred when use is required. Where pernicious weeds are a problem in terrestrial habitat, or invasive or alien water plants are threatening a breeding pond, mechanical control where practicable is always recommended before considering the use of herbicide. Careful treatment of invasive vegetation with approved chemicals may be considered in some limited situations, although success is not guaranteed. Use of chemicals almost always requires a consent and/or licence if the waterbody is connected to groundwater and/or has an inflow and outflow (where it is required by EA or SEPA) or if it has some informal or formal level of site designation (e.g. Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Open water
When deciding on appropriate management of vegetation in and around a waterbody, it is important to have a clear idea of the end result that you are hoping to achieve. The more survey data you have available, the better informed your decisions will be. The shadier a pond is, the lower the water temperature is likely to be throughout much of the year. A pond surrounded by overhanging trees will not let summer sunlight penetrate to the water surface, and therefore it will not be warmed. In addition, overhanging vegetation will shed dead material into the water, accelerating the build up of nutrients and probably leading to a requirement for more frequent de-silting. On the other hand, trees and scrub near the pond can provide good terrestrial habitat for wildlife species, including great crested newts. A compromise could involve retaining tree and scrub vegetation on the north side of a pond where it will cast little or no shade on the water surface, and removing shading vegetation on at least the south side.

Bank profile
Marginal and emergent vegetation are important components of a great crested newt pond as they provide excellent egg-laying sites. Good plants for this purpose include water forget-me-not Myosotis scorpioides, flote/sweet grass Glycerin fluitans and great hairy willowherb Epilobium hirsutum. Marginals and emergents are also important habitat for other species groups, notably damselflies, dragonfiies, water voles and birds. They are, however, an integral part of the natural successional change of a waterbody to a marshy area, and finally dry land. Therefore whilst it is preferable to have a good range and area of marginal plants, if they have reached the stage where they extend across the entire water surface, it may be time to consider their partial removal. In most circumstances it will be desirable to retain a fringe of marginal and emergent vegetation around at least half of a pond's edge. Where the marginal vegetation is particularly invasive, and provides no specific benefit to crested newts, it may be decided that its complete removal is necessary. This could be argued for greater reedmace Typha latifolia in small, shallow ponds, for example.

Diversity of submerged vegetation
Submerged vegetation is an important component of the pond ecosystem, making it habitable to a wide range of animals. Too many plants can occasionally be undesirable for newts however, if the water column becomes completely shaded and choked. Pioneer   (early   successional)   submerged   vegetation   like stoneworts  (e.g. Chara spp.) is unlikely to cause a problem. In time, stoneworts are normally replaced by higher plants like curled   pondweed   Potamogeton crispus   or   water   crowfoot Ranunculus aquatilis. Introduced or 'alien' submerged plants can grow very vigorously and dominate more beneficial native species. New Zealand stonecrop Crassula helmsii and Canadian pondweed Elodea canadensis are two examples to be avoided. In ; most  instances  the complete  removal  of such  species is j recommended. The autumn/winter die-off of large amounts of | submerged   plant   material   (e.g.   hornwort   Ceratophyllimi demenum) can sometimes lead to temporary pond stagnation.; Raking out pond weed may help to prevent stagnation and slow j the process of natural succession.
The introduction of fish to a pond can be so detrimental that their total removal is essential to protect any great crested newt population present. The selection and careful application of appropriate methods and timing for fish removal are important in order to minimise the impact of work on pond wildlife. All methods offish removal are subject to licensing and/or consents.
Netting is usually done with the lowering of water levels, using a pump or siphon. Netting alone will not usually remove the entire fish population; it will only be a temporary measure and fish stocks may recover in a few years. Netting may be combined with additional methods offish removal like electrofishing or the application of a chemical narcotising solution. Aquatic plant life dies back in winter, making netting easier, although fish tend to move towards the bottom of ponds in cold weather. Consideration should also be given to fish breeding seasons. Sticklebacks for example place fertilised eggs in nests that cannot easily be located between March and October.
A small former farm pond in a rural town garden is netted to remove large numbers of recently introduced carp from a great crested newt breeding pond
The netted fish are removed. The adult newt in the catch is released back to the pond
Draining down
Draining down and drying out a pond is the only way to guarantee total fish removal but it can cause massive disruption and local extinction of plant and invertebrate life, especially if the pond base is left to dry out to ensure that small fish fry (and egg nests of sticklebacks) are no longer present. Pond bases may be uneven, causing fish to be trapped in pockets of water or silt, sometimes in the middle of ponds and without easy access for netting. Fish are most easily removed from those ponds that are not heavily vegetated and that readily drain to a single point at the pond edge.
This method does not require the complete draining of a pond, but does require an experienced team of trained workers, a boat and specialised equipment. Electrofishing tends to stun fish over 120mm total length, leaving most smaller fish unaffected.
Chemical culling
Where draining is not practical or poses unacceptable risks to wildlife the removal of sticklebacks and the young of other small fish may only be achieved with the authorised use of a piscicide. Rotenone is a biodegradable, non-residual, and naturally occurring chemical that, diluted in pond water, immobilises fish causing them to float to the surface where they may be netted. Permissions and consents for the use of rotenone are necessary, and the relevant Agency (EA or SEERAD) should be consulted, as regulations governing their use are under constant review. Piscicide use is managed by the Control of Pesticides Regulations (1986). The use of noxious substances for the use of taking or destroying fish is regulated under Section 2 of The Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act (1975) and is managed by the Environment Agency in England and Wales and SEERAD (see next page) in Scotland. Consultation with and an application to the local area consenting officer is needed. However, rotenone is approved only as an insecticide by the Pesticide Safety Directorate so approval for use on fish will not be given other than in exceptional cases, with rigorous checks to show there is no alternative and that the work is essential. Where great crested newts are present, the relevant SNCO should also be consulted.
Use of chemicals requires stringent planning, trained operators and careful monitoring. It may not be allowed at some locations

Waterfowl are sometimes advantageous in bringing new colonisers, in the form of fertilized eggs and tadpoles  that are inadvertently become attached to their webbed feet.  But a resident population of ducks on a small pond can devastate a newt population.  Waterfowl are best excluded from a newt reserve.

Foraging habitat factors

Terrestrial (or land) habitat around a pond provides feeding and sheltering places for newts when they are out of water. The type of habitat around a pond will influence the movement of newts and their long distance dispersal.
Dense, heavily structured habitats (like scrub), provide many places where newts can overwinter and take refuge from desiccation or bad weather. Rough grassland with dense tussocks will also provide areas with food and cover.
Great crested newt densities have been measured at a range of sites. They have rarely been found to exceed 400 adult newts per hectare, but 100-300 per hectare is perhaps more typical. A small pond may need at least half a hectare of suitable habitat around it to support a viable population of great crested newts. Newt numbers may be greatly reduced and the population left vulnerable to local extinction when the amount of land habitat is too small or when connections to other ponds are lost. The ratio of water to good quality land habitat for optimum newt numbers is not known, but a 1:20 ratio may not be excessive. On this basis, a pond with a 20 metre span will be supported by a little over one hectare of good quality land habitat. A ten hectare habitat creation area might support between five and ten ponds of such a size.

Newly created and enhanced land habitats will take time to mature and become valuable for newts, although a lot can be achieved in a single year, if planting seasons are carefully observed. For bare sites such as reversion from agriculture, however, longer may be needed before habitat that will support newts is established. Adding log, rock or turf stacks to newt habitat will provide immediate cover, and the selected planting density of trees or sowing rates of seed will influence the time it takes suitable ground cover to develop and for invertebrates and small mammals to increase their numbers. Rock or log heaps should be located in areas where they will not get in the way of machinery needed to manage other habitats. The deep mulching of tree-planted areas mimics a litter layer and can be very beneficial. (See 'Provision of refuges/over-wintering sites' page 31, for more detail).
Grassland swards can be established by either sowing seed or by leaving the ground to colonise naturally and imposing a mowing regime. Wherever possible, good quality habitat should surround a new pond, so that newts have a choice of direction when leaving the water.
Grassland around great crested newt breeding ponds should be managed in a way that is sensitive to the maintenance of both newts and the grassland sward. The aims of management should be to provide floristically-rich, invertebrate-rich and structurally varied habitat with a minimum of disturbance to newts in the process.
To maintain grassland as grassland, the sward will require cutting or grazing at least annually at a time when newts are less likely to be harmed. A 'traditional' hay cut during hot dry weather in June or July is unlikely to interfere greatly with newt activity. This involves cutting, drying and baling the hay over a period of about a week. Grazing by sheep, horses or cattle may also benefit the grassland sward, although overgrazing must be avoided. Where possible it is beneficial to leave a margin of uncut vegetation up to five metres or so in width around some of the pond margins and alongside hedges, streams or other boundaries to ensure the presence of some dense cover throughout the year.
Scrub and woodland management
To maximise the potential of scrub and woodland for newts, such areas should be divided into compartments for management purposes, and felled or coppiced on a small scale rotational basis to ensure that disturbance at any one time is minimised. Where coppicing is taking place, cut timber can be stacked to provide useful refuge areas for newts. Haul routes should be minimised to reduce ground disturbance.

Studies show that land habitats with a well developed litter layer and dead wood component are favoured by newts. Rocks, logs and gaps in the ground, especially in moist, shaded places or under dense ground cover provide ideal places for newts to rest during the day or to remain during cold or very dry weather. Ditch and hedge banks increase the surface area of land, provide a sheltered microclimate, and often have mammal burrows that newts may share. Networks of burrows made by voles, moles, rabbits and shrews, may be quite extensively adopted by newts.
Providing wood and rock piles for shelter and over-wintering is important in management for great crested newts. Dead wood and the thick litter layer of old woodland and scrub provides the moist stable environment that they need.
Providing a deep litter layer (100mm or preferably more) of deciduous or mainly deciduous bark mulch artificially creates a litter layer. Composted bark mulch is even better as it compacts well and holds moisture more effectively. Used in association with new tree plantations it can be immediately successful in providing habitat for newts. Mulch also reduces growth of ground flora that competes with newly planted tree stock. As plantations grow and are thinned, the cut poles and branches can be left on the surface between trees as further dead wood. By 10-15 years the plantation should provide good quality newt habitat, as an understorey of bramble, ivy or other plant cover develops.
Fallen dead wood under which newts can shelter and feed may be supplemented with cut logs. These can be placed directly on the ground or in a shallow excavation with spoil and turf in
between and on top of the logs. Where possible, log piles should be positioned in shady places where sunlight will not dry them out too much.
Stones and rocks
Stone, rock, clean brick rubble (without cement residues) and old or misfired bricks can be used in a similar way to logs to provide shelter and feeding areas. Building successful rock and log piles can be time consuming and requires careful attention to the timing of delivery and spreading of materials. As with log piles, stone can be placed in shallow excavations made by taking spoil to spread amongst and over the logs or stones. On clay or slow-draining soils, great care must be taken to ensure drainage is adequate and the refuge is not in a flood zone, as the lower part could become waterlogged in heavy rain.
The position for rubble heaps can be anywhere within 200 metres of a pond, but in general, the closer they are to the ponds, the better. Refuges that blend into the environment are best. Avoid unattractive, messy heaps which have the appearance of fly-tipping as these may generate complaints. Encouraging moss and grass to grow on wood/stone piles by adding soil to the top and inside of heaps may increase the humidity and stability of the environment.

Habitat link factors

Routes to other ponds
Populations of newts tend to be stabilised where there are opportunities for adults to migrate from pond to pond in times of high productivity.  Networks of grassland between a collection of ponds is a good management strategy to offset chance variations in breeding success at individual ponds, and the occasional disaster which causes local extinction.

Public disturbance factors

A number of methods may be deployed to minimise the likelihood of fish introductions and to reduce excessive public disturbance. It is important that positive messages are given out rather than a list of 'do not' rules. Leaflets and display boards can help to reinforce local bylaws and management plans. Information may be supplied to school teachers and others who may take and release back to the wild small numbers of plants and animals as a part of their work or pastime. The particular danger of releasing carnivorous fish such as sticklebacks, perch and pike should be highlighted, as some wildlife guides and gardening books do not warn of the effect that these very
In general, the more visitors a pond has, the greater the chance of unauthorised release of unwanted animals and plants and other damage. In urban areas it may be difficult to limit the disturbance of ponds. To protect newts at such places may mean keeping the main breeding site in a secluded or inaccessible area. Deeper ponds, however, may prove irresistible to those who move freshwater fish without permission. Although it is illegal, the release of fish for angling purposes without a Consent from the Environment Agency has, like habitat destruction and neglect, been one of the biggest threats to newts.
The degree of acceptable disturbance will vary according to each site. Ultimately, outside nature reserve areas, a successful strategy to keep one or more newt breeding sites viable will depend upon managing the demands of the public so that these important ponds are kept primarily for wildlife use. Creating new ponds in an appropriate area may in some cases be the only way of achieving this.
Ways to improve the seclusion of ponds include:
• Diversion of footpaths away from pond edges.
• Planting of hedges or narrow tree belts to screen ponds from being noticed and approached. Note: do not plant too close to ponds with trees that may grow and shade or take excessive water from the pond.
•  Fencing or railings (in urban areas) to prevent complete access around a pond edge. It may be possible to protect a proportion of pond edge from disturbance.

Management projects

This section describes the jobs, their resourcing and timing that are required to control the above factors to meet the objective..

Monitoring projects

If monitoring (measuring population size changes over time) is being undertaken, it should be noted that newt population size can fluctuate between years, sometimes quite considerably. This is not necessarily a cause for concern, but may be part of a normal process. Long-term monitoring, ideally over many years, is needed to reveal any meaningful trends in newt populations (see later).
The surveyor should be aware of the limitations of counts. They can vary dramatically for a single population from one day to the next, and in particular, are affected by temperature fluctuations. Also, the variable nature of ponds affects the ease with which newts can be counted. For example, they may be less easily observed in turbid or weedy ponds. Repeating the counting process can go some way towards compensating for variation in newt visibility in ponds where water clarity varies. At least three, and preferably six, counts per year are recommended. These should be carried out over the course of the main breeding season, under suitable weather conditions. The highest count obtained should be used to score the population. If comparisons between population are being made, or if changes in population size over time are being considered, then ideally the average of the same number of counts for each year is used. When assessing populations in a closely- spaced group of ponds (within 250 m of each other) counts can be added together to give a cumulative site score.

The great crested newt is strictly protected in Britain through the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and the Conservation (Natural Habitats etc.) Regulations 1994. This legislation not only protects great crested newt habitat, but also makes it an offence to capture or disturb the species. A licence allows an otherwise unlawful activity to occur for a certain reason, such as conservation. If it is anticipated that great crested newts will be encountered during a survey, then generally it is advisable to  obtain a licence first, and certainly if you are going to use        methods which involve capture or disturbance (licences are issued by the   relevant Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation).     
Surveying for newts involves working close to water bodies, often after dark. Surveyors should be aware of two types of potential health and safety issues: hazards associated with water bodies (e.g. drowning and disease) and possible dangers associated with working outside at night, particularly in urban or suburban areas (e.g. theft or assault). Danger can be minimised by visiting all sites during daylight, prior to night-time surveys, carrying a mobile phone and avoiding working alone. Surveying for newts can usually be carried out without getting wet. However, where bankside vegetation is dense this may necessitate wading through some areas, and egg searching may involve immersing hands in pond water.
Three main diseases to be aware of are Tetanus, Weil's disease (leptospirosis) and Hepatitis A. Weil's disease and Hepatitis A can be contracted through ingesting infected water and Weil's disease can also enter the body through mucous membranes and broken skin. To protect against disease:

•  ensure that Tetanus boosters are adequate
•  do not expose open wounds to pond water
•  do not ingest pond water
•  in case of injury, or if illness follows working near water, seek immediate
   medical advice.


Searching a pond by torchlight between shortly after dusk and midnight is an effective means of detecting adult newts. The surveyor should walk slowly around the pond, checking for newts in the torch beam, paying particular attention to marginal vegetation and potential display areas on the pond bottom, and scanning every 2-3 metres or so as gaps in pond bank vegetation allows. March to June is the best time, and warm, still evenings without rain are most productive. Although newts are active in rainy and windy conditions, the water surface can become too disrupted for clear viewing. Larvae can also be detected by torching during late summer and autumn. The activity of newts, and hence their visibility during torch surveys, is heavily influenced by temperature.
In days following frozen or very cold conditions, newts can be so inactive in ponds that they go undetected. The air temperature below which torching becomes less reliable has not been established but 5°C can be taken as a working guide. A powerful torch is needed and waterproof rechargeable ones are most suitable. For most ponds, a torch with 100,000 candle power is adequate but when viewing water from greater distance (e.g. from 5-10 metres away at the edge of a flooded quarry), spot lamps of up to 1,000,000 candlepower can be used. Care must be taken with high power spot lamps as, at close range, these may cause extensive disturbance and possibly damage to animals.
Torching is a suitable technique for measuring relative abundance. Perhaps the most important issue regarding the choice of torch for those counting newts rather than recording presence/likely absence, is that of consistency. To compare counts between ponds or over time, the same type of torch, bulb and battery strength should be used in each case.
Torchlight counts are prone to showing apparent 'declines' in adult numbers over the summer as vegetation cover increases and breeding activity ends, reducing the visibility of newts. In very turbid or densely vegetated ponds, torch surveys are unsuitable.
To gain a population score the surveyor should make a single circuit of the pond and count the total number of adult newts seen by torchlight.

Bottle trapping

Bottle traps are an effective way of detecting and assessing a population, but they do have several drawbacks. Bottle trapping can be logistically onerous and there is a risk of harming newts and small aquatic mammals. Due to the problematic nature of bottle trapping it is recommended only in limited cases. It could be used for checking weedy or turbid ponds where torching is not reliable for example, or for ponds at which night-time access (for torching) is restricted.
Bottle trapping normally requires two visits to a pond for each trapping session; an evening visit to set the traps, followed by an early morning visit to check them. It can take a long time to set, collect and transport a large number of traps to and from a pond (see reference 38). The use of bottle traps demands considerable care and should be carried out only by thoroughly trained persons. If traps are fully submerged and prevent newts rising to the surface of the water to breathe, then the newts may eventually suffocate. Warmer water holds less oxygen, so this risk increases in hot weather and also in small, well-weeded and heavily silted ponds. For information on bottle trapping.

Drift fence and pitfall traps

Drift fences and pitfall traps are commonly used in studies of amphibian ecology. As a conservation survey tool they can be used to show the direction of arrival at, and departure from a pond, or to detect occurrence and movements on land.
Pitfall trapping is time consuming and labour intensive and can, like bottle trapping hold risks to amphibians, mammals and other wildlife.