Open Eye: New ponds can be good news for newts

Frogs and toads travel, but spare newts a long walk, says Yvonne Cook

WHAT MAKES A newt feel at home? A recent study by the OU-based Declining Amphibians Task Force, on how amphibians colonise new ponds in rural areas, could help create more habitats for some of Britain's rarest amphibians.

The old farm pond was an important breeding site for amphibians - frogs, toads and newts - but throughout the twentieth century the number of these ponds has declined dramatically with changes in farming practice. The good news is that some new ponds are being created by farmers and landowners, offsetting the loss of traditional habitats.

It was the potential importance of these new ponds as habitats that led Professor Tim Halliday of the DATF, and his colleague John Baker, a post- doctoral research fellow, to take a closer look. Poking around farm ponds in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire, they produced a detailed survey of the types of creatures living in them.

The results of their research, they hope, will lead to changes in the way new ponds are sited.

"What we found was that, although the overall amphibian numbers are similar between new and old ponds, the species composition is different. There were significantly fewer newts, particularly great crested newts, which are among the rarest and most-threatened of British amphibians."

Newts, it appears, do not like long-distance walking. While frogs and toads are willing to travel at least 950 metres to make their home in a new pond, newts were found only in new ponds within 400 metres of their existing habitat.

The presence of fish and waterfowl was also bad news for newts, the survey found, and particularly for the great crested newts, which never lived in fishponds. Fish and waterfowl are more likely to be a feature of new ponds, which are often created for recreational and sporting purposes, rather than of traditional ponds, which were mainly used for watering livestock.

Says Tim: "New ponds on farm land can provide suitable habitat for amphibians. But to benefit newts, they should not be stocked with fish or subject to heavy waterfowl use. If fish and waterfowl are the purpose of a pond creation scheme, secondary ponds can be built as part of the scheme and set aside for newts. New newt ponds should also be sited within 400 metres of existing newt ponds."

Newt-friendly pond construction schemes can have wider benefits, he says. "Areas of high pond density that are favourable to newts, are also associated with greater plant diversity. So a pro-active conservation strategy for great crested newts could use this legally-protected amphibian as an `umbrella species' under which other pond organisms could benefit."

More information about the work of the Declining Amphibians Task Force is available on the web at www.open.ac.uk/OU/Academic/Biology/J_Baker/JBtxt.htm.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

SEN Teacher, Permanent Role in Ashford

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad urgently seeks a qualif...

Drama Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Liverpool: We are looking for someone who can t...

**Science Teacher Urgently Required for September**

£120 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: **Science Teacher Urgently ...

Science Teacher

£110 - £135 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Sc...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice