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As part of the Thorpe Park development in Leeds, we are responsible for translocation and mitigation of great crested newts. Between mid-September and the end of October, we translocated over 2,000 amphibians, representing only a third of the trapping we are due to carry out! Here Katie Watson, our Assistant Ecologist, tells us more about the project that has seen our ecologists monitoring and trapping amphibians along five kilometres of newt fencing.

Great crested newt translocation and mitigation

A daily rota of checking newt traps along the installed newt fencing on site has led to our ecologists translocating 120 great crested newts (which are a protected species) as well as 996 smooth newts, 1,189 toads and 119 frogs from the development area at Thorpe Park, Leeds. So far, a third of the trapping has been completed, with a further third likely to be completed over the next week.

Newt fencing at Thorpe Park business park by Assistant Ecologist Katie Watson

Newt fencing at Thorpe Park business park by Assistant Ecologist Katie Watson

Translocation is essential, as great crested newts are Britain’s largest and most threatened newt, protected under the EU Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). By following Natural England’s mitigation guidance, we aim to maintain and enhance the population by ensuring high quality translocation habitat as well as maintaining strict welfare standards.

Translocation only forms one part of the mitigation measures for great crested newts at Thorpe Park, as pond creation in the translocation area has also been a vital aspect of the project in terms of ecology. The ponds have central open areas for mating displays, encircled by shallow water margins, which are to be planted with translocated vegetation from the marshland habitat at the development site. Spoil has been used to sculpt the terrestrial habitat alongside the water’s edge to create raised earth banks. Woodland and grassland mosaics have also been created using wildflower seedlings and saplings.

Katie Watson, Assistant Ecologist, checking newt traps at Thorpe Park. Photo by Kelly Clark, Principal Ecologist

Katie Watson, Assistant Ecologist, checking newt traps at Thorpe Park. Photo by Kelly Clark, Principal Ecologist

During the initial great crested newt surveys a number of surveying techniques were used including egg search, torchlight surveys and bottle trapping. Since then, eDNA sampling is being used to detect microscopic fragments of DNA biomarkers belonging to great crested newts within waterbodies. This method can be used to determine species occupancy in ponds (i.e. presence/absence) and has the potential advantage of increasing survey efficiency.

About Thorpe Park

Thorpe Park is a business park development in Leeds, currently accommodating 4,500 office workers at several organisations. Current development will expand the facilities for staff on the Park to include a hotel, restaurants and a coffee shop, as well as retail and health & fitness facilities.

With 44% of dedicated green space, Thorpe Park will ultimately have around 7,000 trees, 20,000 shrubs and hedges, 50,000 flower bulbs and 15,000 aquatic plants.

About Baker Consultants

Baker Consultants are experienced in a full range of protected species surveys and mitigation measures, including great crested newts. To maintain the high professional standards expected by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) and our clients, we strictly follow Natural England’s guidelines. For more information, visit our Terrestrial Ecology home page or go directly to our Great Crested Newt Surveys page.

Spring and summer are the busiest seasons in our surveying calendar, with our ecologists travelling across the UK and Europe carrying out a wide variety of surveys for our clients. Here are a selection of the best ecology survey pictures from 2015 so far.

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The video below shows our Technical Director Carlos Abrahams assessing a tree for its potential to support bat roosts and searching for evidence of roosting bats. It demonstrates the climbing ability and strength our ecologists need for this type of survey!

Read the full article about tree-climbing bat surveys here.

For more about our recent projects, explore the rest of our news articles or visit our case studies page.

At Baker Consultants, our terrestrial ecologists are fully licensed and experienced great crested newt surveyors and have carried out accredited training in environmental DNA (eDNA) field sampling, led by Dr Jeremy Biggs, Director of the Freshwater Habitats Trust (FHT).

This innovative and recently developed survey method is used to detect microscopic fragments of DNA biomarkers belonging to great crested newts, which persist in waterbodies for between 1 and 3 weeks, depending on environmental conditions. This method can be used to determine species occupancy in ponds (i.e. presence/absence) and has the potential advantage of increasing survey efficiency from a financial, time and labour intensity perspective.

eDNA service at Baker Consultants

eDNA service at Baker Consultants

The fact that eDNA persists in waterbodies (excluding sedimentary deposits) for a relatively short period of time, means that collected samples should contain the DNA fragments of great crested newts that were recently present within the waterbody. This technique has been supported by Natural England and where negative results are returned following analysis, the requirement for further surveying using the standard bottle trapping, egg search and torchlight methods can be omitted; thus potentially saving the client time and money. Furthermore, a recent study published by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and conducted by the FHT, showed that eDNA sampling used to determine the presence of great crested newts had an accuracy level of 99.3%, compared to only 76% via the standard bottle trapping technique.

However, to support a licence application for development, Natural England will only accept the results of this new sampling technique if an appropriately trained and experienced great crested newt surveyor collects the samples. Additionally, in order to be accepted, these samples must be collected between 15th April and 30th June.

Baker Consultants are able to provide this eDNA service on request. Further details on prices and availability will be released in the near future. If you have any queries regarding this service, please contact Jake Robinson.