The message to those advising anyone with interest in land, however large or small, is loud and clear. If your client has a protected species on its land which they intend to develop, it is absolutely vital that they have the site surveyed by a competent environmental consultant, who will be able to identify any potential risks.
I've seen this same story repeated by a number of news outlets recently and it demonstrates the problem that ecologists frequently face when explaining results to clients and the media.
Problems associated with detectability of a species mean that the number of newts observed during a survey rarely correlates with the population present within a site. The number of animals observed during a survey can depend on a multitude of factors (e.g. water clarity, vegetation, water levels etc). It's much easier to count newts in a pond with clear water than a murky pond full of pond weed.
The number of newts captured during mitigation work frequently exceeds survey predictions. For example, a mitigation project undertaken by Calumma Ecological Services on behalf of Gallagher in 2012 recorded a maximum count of just 6 adult great crested newts in pre-capture survey work. Yet, detectability issues were clearly present in the overgrown target pond and the EPS Licence application stressed that significantly more animals were likely to be captured. In fact Calumma proposed that as many as 750 newts may be captured. Calumma originally wanted to ring fence the pond and capture animals as they migrated back to the pond. Unfortunately, delays in obtaining the licence meant that works could not begin until after animals had returned to the pond to breed. Capture totals were therefore significantly inflated by high numbers of larvae and metamorphs. In fact more than 2100 newts have been captured at this location and work will need to continue in Spring 2013. The actual number of captured adults (484) and juveniles (24) are currently well within the original prediction of 750.
If great crested newts (that can take three years to reach sexual maturity) really could increase their populations by 3000% in one year, I think that not only would the laws of physics need re-examining, but conservation work would be a little easier to achieve.
Upon returning from Madagascar I was very sad to learn of the passing of Kent's legendary naturalist, Eric Philp.
Eric was the author of the Atlas of Kent Flora (both volumes) and has been dubbed the modern godfather of Kent botany. Before he retired Eric worked at Maidstone Museum as the County Recorder where he helped to collate large numbers of records from the public. As a consequence there are significant numbers of records on the KRAG system that are attributed to Eric. In 1998 The Kent Field Club published Eric's Provisional Atlas of the Reptiles and Amphibians in Kent. During my 2004 hunt for elusive Kent Sand Lizards, I made reference to Eric's observations on recording native colonies of the species (he looked, but didn't find).
As others have already noted, it is the end of an era.
During the summer Calumma Ecological Services ran a special promotion on great crested newt habitat assessments. Interest was so high we've decided to keep the promotion in place until next year! Great crested newt single pond assessments (including report and KRAG database search) therefore remain available from just £350.
Determing the likely presence of great crested newt is vital when considering planning budgets and timescales. We understand that wildlife surveys can sometimes be expensive and confirming the presence of species such as great crested newt on a site can have important implications for the proposed development. Establishing the presence of great crested newts at an early stage in the planning process can help to reduce overall costs whilst ensuring that the newts are adequately protected.
Remember, wildlife legislation is there to protect the species concerned. It isn't there to stop development.
In the south of England orange tip emergence appears to be more related to garlic mustard. Of the two food plants commonly associated with this butterfly (the other being lady's smock), garlic mustard is the one I have managed to establish in the wildlife garden. I've not yet seen orange tips in the garden, so fingers crossed for next spring.
Over the past six months, the NBN Trust has been consulting with data providers and data users about a proposal to change the Data Access Controls with the aim of increasing biodiversity data use, generating better feedback to data providers, improving the performance of the Gateway, and generally making the system more flexible and easy to use.
I can't see how the changes address the specific concerns of potential data providers and local records centres who lose revenue when ecological consultants obtain data from NBN rather than the LRC?
Yes, there is a box that users must tick stating that they will adhere to NBN's terms and conditions. But how will this prevent information from ending up in a consultant report? Will NBN be implementing a complaints procedure? Why should a LRC (or local recording group) contribute data to NBN, when this is likely to undermine the LRC's revenue stream?
A recently published paper in Biodiversity and Conservation has demonstrated that the grass snake hatching success is significantly affected by the medium within which eggs are deposited.
In a novel relocation experiment, Kristin Löwenborg, Simon Kärvemo, Alma Tiwe and Mattias Hagman placed grass snake eggs in different materials and monitored hatching success. Hatching success was highest in manure heaps (71%). When placed in compost piles, hatching success declined to 43%. When eggs were placed in what the authors considered to be 'natural' nests, hatching success failed completely (0%).
The authors suggest that more stable thermal conditions within manure heaps facilitate the successful development of embryos. The decline in storage of large manure heaps on farms that adopt more modern management practices may therefore be highly detrimental to grass snakes.
Two things strike me as odd about this incident. Firstly, why on earth didn't the council undertake a proper ecological risk assessment before granting themselves planning permission? It amazes me that so many local authorities seem to think that they are not subject to the same rules and regulations that other developers must adhere to. Secondly, great crested newts in a lake large enough to support water sports? Really?
As principal ecologist for Calumma Ecological Services, I am able to put my interest in reptiles and amphibians to good effect. Like most folks that work with wildlife, my activities extend beyond just 'the job' and I am also involved with several local conservation groups. Being the county recorder for reptiles and amphibians in Kent certainly helps me to fill in those spare moments when I'm not busy with the kids!
Calumma Ecological Services is a Kent based ecological consultancy that specialises in protected species surveys and habitat assessments.
Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group
For more information about Kent's reptiles and amphibians visit the Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group's website.
Submit a Record Have you seen a frog in your garden pond? Better yet an adder while out walking?! If you would like to let KRAG know about an amphibian or reptile observation, please complete the online recording card.
Recording Diary KRAG organises a full programme of events throughout the year. For more details about forthcoming attractions, visit the KRAG web site.
Old Blog Posts Still Available Archived posts in the old blog are still available - and will be for ever if I don't work out how to import them into this new site!
Amphibian and Reptile Group of South Lancashire
For more information about the reptiles and amphibians found in Lancashire, visit the ARGSL website.