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Analytical and methodological development for improved surveillance of the Great Crested Newt, and other pond vertebrates - WC1067

The technique of using eDNA to record species occupancy in ponds has been recently tested in several European countries for a range of species, for example, the GCN, European Weatherfish, Common Spadefoot toad (e.g. Thomsen et al 2011). The technique involves taking water samples from ponds and testing for traces of the species DNA in the water. Multiple species can be detected from the same water sample. Thomsen et al (2001) showed that GCN and Common Spadefoot toad DNA in water degrades within 20 days, so a positive result shows that the species has been present recently. See Appendix 1 for list of existing work in this area.

The eDNA technique has a number of potential advantages, including ease of deployment (e.g. no restrictions on time of day for sampling) and potentially more accurate detection ability. The GCN is an example of a fairly cryptic pond species, with a relatively low detection rate using traditional methods of sampling. Thus several negative repeat samples of the same site are needed to provide a reasonably high confidence that the species is truly absent from the site. With the eDNA detection method, it is thought that a negative result will be a much stronger indication of true absence, and any individual GCN that is in the pond has a higher likelihood of being detected, even in conditions that are not conducive to traditional sampling (e.g. murky waters). This is to be tested in the research specified below. In addition, some research has shown that the eDNA method can give an indication of population density rather than just occupancy (Thomsen et al, 2011).

This project will provide further investigation into the accuracy with which the eDNA method can show occupancy and abundance in a range of pond situations throughout GB.

This project will also provide a wide range of analyses, and associated tests of power, to determine the optimum sampling designs to detect change in three parameters across Great Britain: pond numbers, Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) and Great Crested Newt pond occupancy.
1. To establish the performance of eDNA techniques to determine the presence of GCN in a wide variety of pond habitats across GB.
2. To investigate the performance of eDNA techniques to predict GCN population sizes within ponds.
3. To document a technical advice note for the use of eDNA field and laboratory techniques for GCN, which is due to be published as an annex to this report by the end of February 2014.
4. Produce surveillance sampling options for the Great Crested Newt across Great Britain to determine baseline and trend data.

Contract Variation

This contract was varied to investigate out of season testing for GCN. A report on this aspect will be provided shortly.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : WC1067 Final Report   (3736k)
• OTH - Other : WC1067 Appendix 3 Results Tables   (1286k)
• OTH - Other : WC1067 Appendix 4 Out Of Season Survey Report   (511k)
• TRP - Technical Report : WC1067 Appendix 5 Technical Advice Note Updated Sept 2014   (613k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2013

To: 2014

Cost: £207,505
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Pond Conservation