Natterjacks require a mosaic of habitats in fairly close proximity: wet slacks and pools of varying depths some of which hold water until mid- to late summer for breeding; short grassland and bare sand for feeding; and open sand ridges for burrows.
Between 1995 and 1998, the Pond Life Project undertook a survey of 1000 ponds in the Northwest. Of these 500 were north of the Mersey although no sites surveyed were within the boroughs of Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens or Liverpool. The Pond Life survey showed that 25% of ponds in the northern part of the survey area contained Great Crested Newts. Furthermore, in some urban areas (e.g. Wigan) the percentage of occupied ponds was higher.
Great Crested Newt surveys have been carried out on Ainsdale Sand Dunes NNR in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2006. Evidence of Great Crested Newt occupation was found in 31 ponds and temporary slacks.
There was a very large reduction in the size and distribution of the North Merseyside population during the 20th century – perhaps as much as 80%. The current estimate of the local population is 1,000 adults. These are all located in the Sefton Coast sand dunes and surrounding area and are spread over widely fragmented sites. The Sefton population is considered the rarest of three ‘geographical races’ in Britain. One population within the Sefton coast area appears to be genetically distinct from the others, due to isolation.