A pioneering environmental DNA (eDNA) technique for detecting the presence of great crested newts (GCN) has been approved by Natural England. The new field and laboratory methodology can be used immediately by Thomson Ecology on all projects during the current breeding season.
The eDNA technique provides a rapid and cost-effective methodology for determining if GCN are present on sites where ecological surveys for this species are required. If absence is established, then no further survey would be required. However, if GCN are shown to be present, then conventional survey techniques, including six field visits, may still be required to determine population sizes of GCN in breeding ponds.
Paul Franklin, Principal Ecologist at Thomson Ecology, said:
“The eDNA technique is cutting-edge and has the potential to reduce survey times substantially. It has been proven to be effective during the GCN breeding season and the fact that it is now approved by Natural England for use until 30th June this year means that presence or absence of GCN can still be tested for, even though it is now too late in the year to complete a conventional survey according to Natural England guidelines.
“Our trained and licensed surveyors will collect samples from ponds following the approved methodology and our partner laboratory will process the samples, using state-of-the-art equipment, to provide rapid results. Should GCN be present, then confirmation can be factored promptly into project planning. However, when the absence of GCN is confirmed, no further surveys for GCN will be required.”
The announcement approving use of this technique has been made by Natural England following the publication by Defra of an investigation into the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) to detect the presence of the great crested newt (GCN) and a technical advice note setting out the field and laboratory methodology, Natural England have accepted the use of this new technique as evidence of presence or absence for this protected species.