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After demonstrating that traditional approaches to reduce development impacts on newts often fail, the research team developed a new approach combining eDNA surveys for newts with ‘risk map’ modelling. The approach has been adopted by Defra/Natural England, leading to a new landscape-level approach for mitigation that combines eDNA data and modelling.



The great crested newt has been declining across its European range and receives full legal protection in the UK. However, the widespread distribution of the species means that it frequently comes into conflict with infrastructure development. In a speech on 30 June 2020, the Prime Minister declared that ‘Newt counting delays are a massive drag on the prosperity of this country’.



The research team combined field surveys with systematic evidence review and analysis of unpublished post-development reports. This was followed by further research in partnership with Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, commissioned by Defra and Natural England, analysing the impact of traditional actions to mitigate development impacts on great crested newts.

Recent advances in DNA technology have enabled the detection of species through the DNA that has been shed into the environment, known as environmental or eDNA. In collaboration with partner organisations the team have taken the lead in developing and validating the technique to assess the distribution of great crested newts.



The new methodologies devised by researchers at the University of Kent and the team at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) have revolutionised the way in which great crested newt sites are assessed, and shifted mitigation measures away from inefficient site-based protocols to a landscape-level approach. This work has led directly to changes in government policy at national level (Defra, Natural England), and acted as a catalyst for innovation and new business creation.

The work is used as the basis of District Level Licencing schemes, which use ‘risk maps’ for great crested newts based on the team’s methodology of combining large-scale eDNA surveys with species distribution modelling. District Level Licensing has resulted in the creation or restoration of 386 ponds to compensate for potential development impacts.

A series of workshops relating to the use of environmental DNA have resulted in over 300 practitioners who are now better-equipped to deliver and interpret the results of the eDNA-based surveys.


More information

Institution: University of Kent

Researchers: Professor Richard Griffiths, Dr Joseph Tzanopoulos, Dr Dimitrios Bormpoudakis, Professor Jim Groombridge, Dr Andrew Buxton


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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Advancing new assessment and mitigation approaches to resolve conflict between protected species and infrastructure development in the UK. Available at  Last accessed on: <date>