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North Merseyside Biodiversity Action Plan
Sand Lizard Lacerta agilis
1 Current status
1.1 National & international
The Sand Lizard is under threat throughout its Palaearctic range and beyond. Populations are declining throughout Europe. In the UK, many natural populations have disappeared and the species has been lost from many regions.
Surviving colonies are mostly confined to heathland habitats within coniferous forests and the dry heaths of south Dorset. Only a few populations now remain on the heathlands of south-west Surrey and the Merseyside sand dunes.
Sand Lizards have recently been re-introduced to sites in southern England and north and west Wales. There is one long established, introduced colony in Scotland. It is a Priority Species in the UK BAP on account of its historic decline and current
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.
There may have been some improvements in status at some sites but these have, to a degree, been balanced by other localised declines.
Optimal habitat for Sand Lizards includes: un-shaded ground vegetation of suitable structure, (e.g. mature and tangled marram grass or mature dry heath), local topographical variation (including south-facing slopes) and sufficient open sand nearby for breeding (5-20% on dunes and 2-10% on dry heaths).