RAUK - Archived Forum - DEFRA GCN (and Bat) Project Call

This contains the Forum posts up until the end of March, 2011. Posts may be viewed but cannot be edited or replied to - nor can new posts be made. More recent posts can be seen on the new Forum at http://www.herpetofauna.co.uk/forum/

Forum Home

DEFRA GCN (and Bat) Project Call:

Author Message
Ewan
Member
Joined: 14 Jul 2003
No. of posts: 21


View other posts by Ewan
Posted: 09 Feb 2011
New call from DEFRA looking for a group to investigate the effects of mitigation on local GCN populations. Deadline 8th March.

Reading between the lines I think it's rather important that a good group gets this contract..

Full details and application pack available from DEFRA contract page here:

http://www.defra.gov.uk/evidence/science/funding/competition s.htm


And here's a copy of the GCN part:

PROJECT TITLE: THE DEVELOPMENT OF STRATEGIES FOR REFINING LICENSED OPERATIONS AND THEIR IMPACTS ON EUROPEAN PROTECTED SPECIES (EPS), PARTICULARLY BATS AND GREAT CRESTED NEWTS.


Background

1. European Protected Species are strictly protected because of concerns at a European Union level about their abundance and distribution. Typically, these species are acutely vulnerable to human impacts, and in the case of EPS found in the UK, it is the impacts of lawful activities, rather than persecution, that pose the greatest threat to the species. Therefore, addressing these threats is not simply a matter of enhanced policing but will require management strategies and techniques that can avert or resolve conflicts.

2. Under section 78 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, Defra authorises Natural England to perform certain Defra functions such as determining and granting certain licences under wildlife legislation. In the case of European Protected Species, licences are issued in pursuance of Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, and the EC Habitats Directive 1994.

3. Licensing concerns relating to EPS in the UK principally involve bat species and great crested newts:

Bats ű many bats are dependent on buildings as roost sites and some species are rarely found anywhere else. The drive to improve energy efficiency (e.g. improved roof insulation and draft exclusion) and more efficient utilization of existing properties (e.g. loft conversion) and new properties (loft spaces fully utilised) is eliminating roost sites, creates scope for conflict with bats and threatens their conservation status. Some people are unable to accept the presence of bats in the roof of their house, for example, due to phobias or health concerns, and demand action. This can cause some extremely stressful situations if not managed carefully.

Historic buildings make an important contribution to the built environment, contributing towards the nation's understanding of its past and present and developing a sense of place. Churches are often recognised (by statutory designation and public opinion) as being particularly significant parts of the historic environment. No other single building type dominates the historic environment in this way; this reflects the high esteem in which these buildings are already held by society.

Great crested newts ű dependent on suitable breeding ponds. The intensification of agriculture, farmland pond loss in the past and the addition of fish to many ponds for angling or to enhance their appearance has greatly reduced the number of suitable ponds. Newts readily colonise brown-field sites because these often provide ideal habitat (e.g. pools without fish, unmanaged and ungrazed grass and scrubby areas). This regularly brings newts into conflict with developers and planners.

4. At present, the key policies applied to species licensing and advice are:
o There must be no satisfactory alternative to the proposed operation that would result in a lesser degree of harm.
o The permitted operation authorised must not be detrimental to the maintenance of the population of the species concerned at a favourable conservation status in its natural range.

In this regard:

o the cumulative effect of all licences should not be detrimental to the conservation status of populations of EPS;
o licences should not be unreasonably withheld or revoked;
o assessments of conservation status should be based on agreed species conservation data and appropriate species experts should be consulted when appropriate, and in particular where sufficient data may not be available;


5. Defra's EPS licensing policy has attracted considerable attention, much of it critical in nature, for example:
o Species provisions have been subject to two EC Infraction Proceedings since 2000. The second resulted in amendments to UK legislation in 2007 and 2009. In addition, Defra / NE have been subject to several Judicial Review proceedings and several further threats of legal action in respect to EPS since 2006.
o EPS account for more NE correspondence on licensing than any other species/legislation.

o EPS regularly feature in a negative light in newspaper articles. Typically, articles refer to hold-ups resulting from the discovery of EPS on development sites (with associated claims of significant financial ramifications) or to the high cost of mitigating impacts on the protected species (often expressed as tens of thousands of pounds per newt, or lost classrooms).
o In 2008, Andrew Robathan MP tabled a Private Members Bill seeking to amend the provisions of the Regulations, and the Forestry Commission is currently pressing for amendments to the Directive. The Environment Agency and a number of government departments, including BIS, DCLG and MoD, have all expressed concerns at the implications of this legislation or its implementation on their interest areas.

Research needs


6. The following topics have been identified as priorities for research:

A. Improving mitigation success where bats occupy houses and historic buildings, particularly churches.
B. Examining the fate of local great crested newt populations following licensed developments.

These priorities will focus on several bat species and great crested newts.


7. Details of requirements for each topic are provided in the attached annexes. Bidders are invited to submit proposals for one or both of the two topics in the form of project proposals (ie, one project proposal per annex). Separate proposal forms are needed for each project. Indicative costs of the projects are given after the project descriptions in the annexes.

Further information


8. Late applications will be returned unopened. Applications by fax or e-mail are not acceptable. However an electronic version of the application (CD-ROM) should be submitted with the signed hard copies.


9. Bidders will be expected to have extensive knowledge of past and on-going related research and to take this into account in their bids. No specific further information is available, as all bids will be assessed against this specification. No advice can be provided about the relative merits of different scientific approaches. However, if you need further information about specific issues relating to this competition, please contact:


Richard Brand-Hardy
Defra
Area 3C
Nobel House
17 Smith Square
London. SW1P 3JR
Tel: 020 7238 5005

 

<snip bat Annex A. Sorry bat people! Goto DEFRA website for the details. Ewan>

 

 Annex B
B. Examining the fate of local great crested newt populations following licensed developments


Conflict situation


1. Great crested newts are commonly found on brown-field, in-fill and green-field sites earmarked for development (particularly in the south-east and north-west).
The discovery of newts can delay projects and the legal requirement to ensur no detriment can be difficult and costly to implement, as breeding ponds and terrestrial habitat need to be retained or replaced.

Background and policy issues


2. The removal of newts and the destruction of habitat can be licensed. Such licences are linked to mitigation/compensation measures that are aimed at ensuring no detriment to local great crested newt conservation status. Mitigation methods are described in detail in statutory guidance and there are now a large number of sites where these have been used. Only very limited monitoring data are available to allow assessment of the impact of licensed activities on the conservation status of great crested newts and, typically, these data focus on the individually affected pond(s). A survey of the great crested newts and their habitats in the local area (say within 1km of a development site) would give a more holistic and informative view of the local status of great crested newts. This could assess the factors affecting newts positively and negatively. Critically, it would allow some assessment of the current status of the population affected by development compared to the pre-development situation and put this in a local context. A matter of particular interest is the extent to which development and mitigation impacts can be assessed in relation to the background level of status change. Surveys regularly reveal population declines in great crested newt populations not subject to any management attention. This project should assess to what extent populations subject to mitigation suffer a similar fate, and whether post-development measures agreed at the licensing stage assist population persistence.


3. The law requires that derogation activities (singularly and cumulatively) must not be detrimental to the conservation status of a population. EC guidance indicates that äpopulation? impacts need to be considered at all scales of population. From an impact perspective, the local population will be most vulnerable to the perturbation effects of a licensed operation. However, while there have been some small-scale studies evaluating the status of newts in affected ponds, there has been little evaluation of the population level impacts or longer-term consequences.


4. Key questions

a) Does current mitigation practice as implemented achieve the policy objective of at least maintaining the conservation status of the local newt populations?
b) How do populations directly affected by development and mitigation fare when compared with populations not directly affected?
c) What measures:
i. Show little/no benefit
ii. Show benefit
iii. Might improve the success of future mitigation practice?

Research needs


5. There is a need to monitor the impact of current mitigation measures on the conservation status of affected newt populations. This project aims to describe and evaluate the outcomes for great crested newts at a local population scale of mitigation operations undertaken 6-7 years ago, and if applicable, to make recommendations to improve good practice.
The specific objectives for this project are:

a) To determine the outcome of mitigation actions associated with development projects on the conservation status of great crested newts.
b) To identify and quantify the key factors affecting the outcome of mitigation measures.
c) To identify and cost any possible amendments or additions required to existing mitigation practices.
d) To assess, as far as is feasible, to what extent mitigation and development have affected the status of populations relative to what might be expected were no such measures agreed.


6. It is suggested that contractors should consider choosing a sample of sites (at least 10) that have been subject to development and mitigation from about 7 years previously to undertake a systematic survey. Sites where licensed operations took place in 2004 are the earliest that should be used because good practice published in 2001 was bedded in by then. In addition, revised licensing procedures mean data from that period onwards should be easier to gather from NE licence files. Later projects would not be as instructive as little time has elapsed to allow populations to adjust to their new situation. Importantly, high quality pre-development survey data must be available for all cases selected.
This would insure against the problems that previous studies have encountered, in which there is good post-development survey but little to compare it with. Within the sample there should be at least three low impact cases (where no breeding ponds were destroyed) and three high impact cases (where at least 2 breeding ponds were destroyed). For the fieldwork component of the current project, ponds and key terrestrial habitat features within a suitable distance (of about 1km) of the development site should be surveyed. As a minimum, the following data would be collected: presence/likely absence of newts at each pond; breeding status at each pond; Habitat Suitability Index at each pond. This would allow an assessment of ponds that were directly affected by mitigation and some that were not, acting as controls. The control site (which should encompass at least three ponds and associated terrestrial habitat) should ideally be at least 1km from the development site in order to minimise any direct effects of the development and mitigation on the control newt population. However, if this is not possible because of a lack of baseline survey data, areas closer to the development would be acceptable, and the contractor will need to make it clear
that in such circumstances there may be limitations in treating that area as a valid control.
In each case, the contractor must describe and assess the value of the following mitigation measures in maintaining great crested newt conservation status:

- Avoidance of damage to key areas of habitat
- Capture of great crested newts (from ponds and terrestrial habitat)
- Temporary exclusion of great crested newts
- Permanent exclusion of great crested newts
- Pond creation, restoration and enhancement
- Connectivity provision, e.g. underpasses
- Terrestrial habitat creation and enhancement (e.g. hibernacula provision)
- Post-development site security mechanism (e.g. designation as county wildlife site)
- Post-development habitat management mechanism
- Liaison with landowner, neighbours and local community.

(Note that we do not expect all of these measures to have been conducted at all mitigation sites. Where any measure was not conducted, this should be recorded.)
This project would require the contractor to establish a standard way to describe and assess conservation status.


Resources


7. It is expected that this project will cost of up to ú75k per annum. It is hoped that the project can start on 1 May 2011. The following is a suggested timetable which bidders may wish to follow:


Phase 1: May 2011 inception, strategy and methods
Phase 2: June - Sept 2011: site selection and access agreement
Phase 3: Oct 2011- March 2012: Habitat surveys and writing up pre-development status assessments
Phase 4: April-June 2012: Year 1 detailed newt and habitat surveys
Phase 5: July - October 2012: Year 1 analysis and reporting. Include possible amendments to field protocols based on year 1 experience
Phase 6: April ű June 2013: Year 2 detailed newt and habitat surveys
Phase 7: July ű November 2013: Final analysis and reporting.

8. Proposals will be accepted which last for longer or shorter periods if this can be shown to maximise the cost-benefit of the research.

The closing date for the submission of bids is 8 March 2011.

Ewan Shilland
Contract Research Scientist
Environmental Change Research Centre
University College London
Scale
Senior Member
Joined: 05 Dec 2010
No. of posts: 83


View other posts by Scale
Posted: 13 Feb 2011
The research on Natterer's bat is long overdue!

- DEFRA GCN (and Bat) Project Call

Content here