Doing environmental DNA newt surveys

You can use environmental DNA (eDNA) surveys to find out if newts are present in ponds and other waterbodies, but you need to adhere to Natural England guidance.  People asked us when they can use it. Be aware that it may be necessary to conduct further “population size class surveys” in a subsequent year.

The method requires one daytime visit, during the “peak aquatic” period for newts. The exact timing depends on the climatic conditions in the year, e.g. if it is warm enough or if there are drought conditions, but Natural England will only accept eDNA survey results from samples collected between 15 April and 30 June each year. This is slightly longer than nocturnal surveys, but not the whole spring and summer.

The methods that must be used are set out in the technical report, that accompanied the DEFRA’s eDNA research project, and requires the use of “quantitative polymerase chain reaction testing“, which looks for DNA “fingerprints” from newts left in the water.

We will provide evidence for your planning application and/or licence application that :

  1. a licensed great crested newts surveyor collected the eDNA sample collection;
  2. one of the approved laboratories ( at present SpyGen, ADAS, FERA ) analysed the samples. Warwickshire University also do eDNA, but not to the same method.
  3. show on a map all the ponds in the study area, and identify those ponds that were sampled for eDNA

As per requirements when applying for the licence, we will provide you a separate document :

  • which waterbodies were tested;
  • the dates the water samples were taken;
  • a table of results;
  • a declaration that the methods in the technical report were followed.

We will keep the survey records for at least 12 months after the first licence return.

Further reading on environmental DNA newt surveys

For those interested there are published papers, which are quire readable :

Rees, H. C., Bishop, K., Middleditch, D. J., Patmore, J. R., Maddison, B. C., & Gough, K. C. (2014). The application of eDNA for monitoring of the Great Crested Newt in the UK. Ecology and evolution, 4(21), 4023-4032.

Biggs, Jeremy, et al. “Using eDNA to develop a national citizen science-based monitoring programme for the great crested newt (Triturus cristatus).” Biological Conservation 183 (2015): 19-28.

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