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agb Environmental can now offer eDNA testing for great crested newts

agb Environmental ecologists are now fully trained and licensed to use this brand new survey technique, which can determine whether great crested newts (GCN) are present or likely to be absent from ponds – using just a water sample! No more trekking around ponds at night with torches, or labour-intensive overnight trapping of ponds: Ecologists don’t even need their wellies for the new technique!  A simple water sample, taken from the bank, is sent for analysis to identify great crested newt DNA.

In some situations, this can save time and money. Traditional newt surveys, with restricted seasonal survey window, are still necessary in some situations, for example, where newts are present and a licence is required. However, if you miss the survey window, or if there are a large number of ponds, the eDNA route has many benefits over existing survey methodologies.

The eDNA survey method is accepted by Natural England and by Local Planning Authorities. It can be taken as evidence of absence or presence of GCN when used between 15th April and 30th June. If used at other times of year, it can detect GCN presence, but currently won’t be accepted by NE or the LPA as evidence of absence. However, guidelines are regularly updated. The technique is so new that it’s developing all the time, with new research already showing that GCN eDNA can be detected in some water bodies all year round. We hope that it won’t be long before we no longer need to have those difficult conversations with clients – where the GCN survey season has been missed causing months of delay before the next survey opportunity. 

LPAs require GCN survey results before they validate/register planning applications, and the newt survey season is now in full swing – so don’t delay! If there are ponds within 500m of your site, even if the development doesn’t impact any water bodies, there may still be a need for GCN surveys.

For advice relating to great crested newts, or to discuss if your site would benefit from this new survey technique, call agb Environmental’s Principal Ecologist, Odette Robson: 01638 663226 or email odette@agbenvironmental.co.uk

Ecology