Great-crested newt

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What is a Great-crested newt?

Male great crested newts can quickly be distinguished from other newts by the distinctly jagged crest that’s most prominent on its back and with a gap at the base of its tail (the smooth newt has a wavy and continuous crest along its back and tail.) They’re also known as the Warty Newt due to the texture of their skin and are our largest species of newt reaching a maximum adult length of 170mm with females tending to be larger than the males.

Why is the Great-crested newt important to the Surrey Hills?

The condition of great crested newt habitat and successful breeding is threatened by:

  • Poor water quality
  • Lack or loss of shallow water habitat in ponds and lakes
  • The introduction or presence of fish in breeding ponds
  • Transition of smaller ponds to drier woody/marshy/fen habitats due to lack of management
  • Lack of appropriate hibernation sites within range of their breeding site
  • Change of land use between breeding and hibernation sites
  • Population fragmentation due to habitat loss

What habitat does the Great-crested newt like?

Water

Water is the dominant component of many of our most diverse and valuable habitats.  The running water of rivers, streams and ditches; static water bodies in natural lakes and ponds, ephemeral features such as winterbournes and dew ponds, manmade reservoirs and restored gravel pits with canals having the appearance of manmade rivers but more characteristic of a still water body. Water is also vital in terrestrial habitats such as marsh, fen, bog, reedbeds and carr woodland, where its presence is a permanent requirement.   In Surrey it’s estimated that water as habitat (both aquatic and wetland habitats) occupy 3,516 hectares or 2.1% of the county’s land area.   The list of bird, mammal, insect, amphibian, fish and plant species that rely on wetland and aquatic habitats is immense.

Newts leave the ponds during the summer, moving into terrestrial habitat to feed on invertebrates such as earthworms and insects. They go into hibernation around October but will remain active until night-time temperatures drop below 5°C. They hibernate, often under logs and stones and usually within about 200m of their breeding site although it is thought some have travelled up to 1,000 metres. Over-wintering sites for newts are sheltered, damp, cool and frost-free such as underground cracks and crevices, rotting tree stumps and rock or log piles.

What can be done to benefit the Great-crested newt?

Good management and habitat creation opportunities for great crested newts consists of:
  • Maintaining good water quality in existing ponds
  • Creating new ponds in appropriate areas (subject to any consents required)
  • If no shallow water areas are present, the reprofiling of existing ponds along the more open, south-facing banks (subject to survey of existing species)
  • Managing existing ponds to maintain open water and open southerly aspect
  • Taking care when considering woodland management near to known great crested newt breeding sites.

 

Creating and managing areas for the Great-crested newt will help deliver the following benefits to communities:
  • Clean water
  • Clean air
  • Protection from and mitigation of environmental hazards
  • Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change
  • Thriving plants and wildlife
  • Beauty, heritage and engagement

These illustrations are by an artist taking part in a programme delivered by Watts Gallery Trust and funded by the Michael Varah Memorial Fund. This series of 30 Surrey Hills Indicator Species were commissioned by Surrey Hills Society and funded by Surrey Hills Trust Fund as part of the Making Space for Nature Exhibition.

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