Removing invasive alien species to help great crested newts in Flintshire

The local great crested newt population at a disused quarry in Flintshire has received the perfect early Christmas present as work to remove an invasive alien species that is quickly taking over their habitat is set to get underway.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has outlined plans to remove New Zealand pygmy weed, also known as Australian swamp stonecrop (crassula helmsii), from several ponds at Pen yr Henblas Quarry, which is part of the Halkyn Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Contractors will start work on 19 December.

New Zealand pygmy weed is a non-native invasive aquatic plant that is having a devastating impact on native habitats and species. It reduces the diversity of plants at ponds by taking over and outcompeting native species, whilst offering leaves which are unsuitable for great crested newts to lay their eggs on.

The invasive plant is also known to reduce visibility in ponds and obstruct male great crested newts as they perform an elaborate courtship routine to attract breeding females during the spring. The plant was widely available from nurseries and garden centres until it was banned in 2014.

Great crested newts are a European protected species. The animals and their eggs, breeding sites and resting places are protected by law. They are threatened by loss of breeding ponds through destruction or degradation of water quality, loss and fragmentation of terrestrial habitat and a rise in non-native invasive weeds.

News of this important work comes during the last week of COP15 where world leaders have come together to discuss the urgent action needed to restore and enhance nature in the UK.

David Powell, NRW Operations Manager for North East Wales, said:

“We are glad to be starting work on removing this invasive species from ponds at Pen yr Henblas Quarry in Flintshire.
“If left unchecked, New Zealand pygmy weed has the potential to have a devastating impact on the great crested newt population.
“The work should hugely benefit the great crested newts and encourage further successful egg-laying and breeding over the coming years.”

Further information about great crested newts in Wales.