30 May 2012

Great Crested Newts Losing Ground in London

Wildlife charity Froglife is calling for better management of urban ponds following results of our recently completed Great Crested Newts Revisted project. We surveyed 73 sites across 16 London Boroughs between 2010 and 2012 and the mixed findings highlight the importance of wildlife-friendly pond management.

A male Great Crested Newt
“Many of the ponds have not been managed for Great Crested Newts for more than 5-10 years. For some sites, as local communities and volunteer groups change, people have forgotten that these species ever used the site,” explains Sivi Sivanesan from Froglife. “It would be a shame to see this trend continue across London, and for us to slowly lose this wonderful and protected species from all but a few key sites.”

Great Crested Newts Revisited was enabled with £101,370.00 funding from SITA Trust to revisit sites known to have newts, pulling together fresh information, creating and restoring ponds for newts as well as training local volunteer groups for surveys and pond management. Froglife have shared the vital results with GiGL (Greenspace Information for Greater London) and Record Centres to facilitate planning and the protection of wildlife habitats.

Froglife has been improving ponds and terrestrial habitat for newts in London
The good news:
- Sites which contain more than one pond were the best for newts. Animals were found to have abandoned some ponds but were found in others, meaning an overall increase in the number of ponds occupied by newts across London. In each of the 16 Boroughs at least 1 site has been found to contain Great Crested Newts.
- The project has also left a legacy of improved habitat, with Froglife staff and volunteers improving ponds in 13 sites across the Capital.

The not so good news:
- At the site level the overall picture was more worrying. Of the 63 sites that had data to compare (comparison data from 1984-2008) there was an overall decrease in occupied sites by 6.3%

The causes of these losses were often clear - a combination of fish introductions and lack of management of the pond, including allowing a pond to become completely overgrown or shaded by trees. These factors had the biggest impact on sites which only contained one pond.

These findings reinforce the predictions from the London wide survey in the mid 1990’s by the London, Essex and Hertfordshire Amphibian and Reptile Trust (LEHART) published in the London Naturalist (Atkins and Herbert, 1996).

“Looking after the City’s ponds is vital, not just for the future of this species in the London area but also for other amphibians, the brilliant pond invertebrates and other creatures that use our ponds,” concludes Sivi. “Let’s not “forget” this wonderful species into disappearing.”

- Great Crested Newts will be featured on BBC Springwatch on Thursday 7th June (although this date may be subject to change due to the live nature of the show)
- We are also asking people to share their garden sightings of the animals in our online Big Garden Newt Count survey here
Into art, craft or baking?  Why not enter our Great Crafted Newt competition to help us protect and celebrate these intriguing animals

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