Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus)
The great crested newt is the largest British newt and, in the breeding season, the male is recognisable by his jagged crest and silvery-blue stripe down the centre of the tail. Both sexes have a dark brown warty body and yellowish-orange belly with black blotches.
species is widespread in Europe but is threatened in many countries.
Britain has probably Europe's largest population and is, therefore,
very important to the continuing survival of the great crested newt.
A typical breeding site contains a number of medium to large ponds that have some areas of clear, base-rich water, deeper than 30 cm and with few fish predators.Such pools are usually surrounded by terrestrial habitat with plentiful ground cover (e.g. scrub, trees, long grass) with moist refuges in which newts spend the daytime (e.g. log piles, rocks or other debris).
Main Habitat(s): Farm ponds; mineral workings; temporary pools; ditches; scrub; hedgerows; arable field and pasture; marsh; gardens; sand dunes.
Numbers are believed to have declined since the 1940s. Studies in the 1980s estimated the current national rate of colony loss at 2% every five years. Approximately 3,000 colonies have been identified but it is estimated that there are still about 18,000 colonies in the whole of Britain.
The great crested newt is a European Protected Species by virtue of being listed under Annex IVa to the EU Habitats and Species Directive 1992. It is protected under UK law by the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations, which translates the Habitats Directive into UK legislation, and also under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). It is also a UK BAP Priority Species.
There are good populations in the Greater Manchester area, the outskirts of Liverpool and the coastal plain of Lancashire, including the Fylde, though there has been a notable loss of sites adjacent to urban areas. There are also numerous breeding sites in Cheshire and scattered populations in Cumbria.
great crested newt is promoted by English Nature as a 'Regional Biodiversity
Indicator' for sustainable
development in the North West.
Significant populations occur in the Boroughs/Districts of Preston, South Ribble, Chorley and West Lancashire. The newts' breeding ponds in these areas form part of the so-called 'Wigan pondway' which links the pond clusters in the Fylde and Cheshire. Populations associated with the pondway are the most frequently affected by development as they occur within the M6 'development corridor' of Lancashire.
factors affecting the species
Other factors, alone or in combination, can also reduce the number of ponds able to support breeding populations of great crested newts:
Natural colonisation by, or deliberate/accidental introduction of fish;
Newts need 'pondways' (corridors of land that are rich in ponds) to allow individuals to move between areas. Pondways prevent newt populations becoming genetically isolated. The factors described above may reduce the number of suitable ponds and restrict the movement of newts. This can lead to inbreeding and to the extinction of populations even where some suitable ponds still exist.
New ponds are not being created at a rate to compensate for the loss of breeding sites. This is because the agricultural use of marl has more or less ceased so there are virtually no new pits being dug
Great crested newts also require an area of 'good' terrestrial habitat surrounding a pond to a radius of at least 250 m. Development and afforestation can destroy this habitat and lead to the demise of a population although the breeding pond may be preserved intact. Increased grazing pressure and conversion of hay-meadows to silage production may reduce the quality of the terrestrial habitat and affect the ability of a site to support breeding.
Linear habitat features (e.g. hedgerows) are also important for great crested newts as they provide conduits for newt movement. Loss of hedgerows is a factor likely to have an adverse impact upon great crested newt populations.
Action / Mechanisms
At the regional level, the Pondlife Project, which ran until 1999, was very active in promoting the conservation of ponds in the North West. Its Critical Pond Biodiversity Surveys, for example, highlighted many great crested newt ponds in the region. Despite this, the current distribution of the species in many parts of the county is poorly known.
Amphibian and reptile groups have been established in some parts of the region such as Cheshire and Bolton. A Lancashire Wildlife Trust Newt Group was established in the early 1990s but appears to be no longer active in Lancashire.
Agri-environment schemes may offer incentives to manage existing ponds and to create new habitats. The current trend for "wilder" gardens perhaps also provides an opportunity to increase the amount of good quality habitat available.
of fish to ponds requires the consent (S30) of the Environment Agency
under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act (1975). New fish introductions
are screened for impacts upon biodiversity (including threats to protected
Objectives, targets and proposed actions for great crested newt in Lancashire
(*The wholescale translocation of populations from one site to another does not fall within this definition.)
1. Arnold, H. R. (1995). Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Britain. ITE research publication no 10. HMSO.
2. Beebee, T. J. C. (1996). Ecology and conservation of amphibians. Chapman & Hall. London.
3. English Nature. (1994). Conservation and management of Great Crested Newts. Proceedings of a symposium held on the 11th January 1994 at Kew Gardens, Richmond, Surrey. No 20.
4. Griffiths, R. A. (1996). Newts and Salamanders of Europe. T & A.D. Poyser Natural History. London.
5. Guest, J. & Bentley, D. (1998). Critical Pond Biodiversity Survey 1997. Pond Life Project, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool.
6. Joint Nature Conservation Committee. (1994). A framework for the conservation of Amphibians and Reptiles in the UK. 1994 - 1999.
7. Pond Life Project (1996). Critical Pond Biodiversity Survey 1995. Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool.
8. Wisniewski, P. J. (1989). Newts of the British Isles. Shire Publications Ltd, Princes Risborough, Aylesbury, Bucks.
9. DETR/English Nature (2000) European Protected Species Guidance Note.
Date: April 2001.