Natural England released the results from their comprehensive investigation into the population status and distribution of great crested newts in Britain late last year.
Natural England released the results from their comprehensive investigation into the population status and distribution of great crested newts in Britain late last year. The one year study is available to download and was carried out by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.
The report shows that great crested newts have declined dramatically in the last 40 years and although still widespread across lowland England they are now uncommon, despite protection under UK and European wildlife law. Deterioration of habitat remains their biggest threat.
Historical research has shown that a century ago there were around one million ponds in our countryside. This number is now closer to 478,000 ponds – a decline that has been compounded by poor water quality and too much shade. The progressive loss of suitable habitat is a cause for real concern.
Conservation of the species has previously been difficult due to patchy and inconsistent data. The research shows that many of the ponds that newts call home are in fact of poor quality and unlikely to sustain them, or indeed other species, in the coming years. The results from the study, which used innovative computer modelling techniques and the Habitat Suitability Index, will help better protect the newts and focus future conservation efforts.
Despite this there is encouraging work going on to help great crested newts on our farmland. Natural England has been supporting land owners to look after newts and improve habitat condition through its Higher Level Stewardship scheme which can provide funds for surveys, pond restoration, in-field options and green corridors for the newts..