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Distribution of the common lizard (Zootoca vivipara) and landscape favourability for the species in Northern Ireland

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image of Amphibia-Reptilia

The common lizard (Zootoca vivipara) is Ireland's only native reptile, forming a key part of the island's biodiversity. However, there is a general paucity of distributional and abundance data for the species. In this study, we collated incidental records for common lizard sightings to define the distribution of the species in Northern Ireland. Maximum entropy modelling was employed to describe species-habitat associations. The resulting predicted landscape favourability was used to evaluate the current status of the species based on the distribution of its maximum potential range in relation to the degree of fragmentation of remaining suitable habitat. In common with previous studies in the Republic of Ireland, sightings were highly clustered indicating under-recording, observer bias, and fragmentation of suitable habitat. A total of 98 records were collated from 1905 to 2009. The species was recorded in 63 (ca. 34%) of 186 × 10 km Northern Irish grid squares. Lizard occurrence was strongly and positively associated with landscapes dominated by heathland, bog and coastal habitats. The single best approximating model correctly classified the presence of lizards in 84.2% of cases. Upland heath, lowland raised bog and sand dune systems are all subject to Habitat Action Plans in Northern Ireland and are threatened by conversion to agriculture, afforestation, invasive species encroachment and infrastructural development. Consequently, remaining common lizard populations are likely to be small, isolated and highly fragmented. Establishment of an ecological network to preserve connectivity of remaining heath and bog will not only benefit remaining common lizard populations but biodiversity in general.

Affiliations: 1: Quercus, School of Biological Sciences, Queen's University Belfast, MBC, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland, BT9 7BL;, Email:; 2: Quercus, School of Biological Sciences, Queen's University Belfast, MBC, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland, BT9 7BL


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