Monday, 31 March 2014

Water test to end the great newt scam

Posted by: Kevin Heath / 2 days ago

Claiming that they’ve seen protected greater crested newts on a proposed site is something that is often used by anti-housing campaigners. It adds costs to any planning application and can also delay the development process for many months as ecologists have to make repeated visits to a site to try to find evidence. Now a simple water test can be used to determine the presence – or not – of newts.

Following substantial testing by the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Natural England has said it will accept the results of a water test as an acceptable way of determining if the protected species is present on a site. The water test can cut the costs by 80% and prevent unnecessary delays in developments.

The new test looks for eDNA (environmental DNA) of greater crested newts in water bodies on a proposed site. The research leading to the test was carried out by a group led by the Freshwater Habitats Trust (FHT).

The use of eDNA testing makes it possible to detect newts simply by taking water samples whereas conventional sampling for the protected species often requires several repeat visits during the breeding season which can be costly and time-consuming.

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