Habitat Trends and Decline of Local Populations of the Argentinean Sand-Dune Lizard

Kacoliris, Federico P.

Velasco, Melina A.

Aguirre, Tomas Martínez

Calvo, Rodrigo

Zarini, Ornella

Williams, Jorge D.

Berkunsky, Igor

Sección Herpetología

Museo de La Plata

CONICET-UNLP

Calle 122 y 60 s/n,

La Plata (1900),

Buenos Aires, Argentina, South America

kacoliris@fcnym.unlp.edu.ar

The Sand-Dune Lizard (Liolaemus multimaculatus) is an IUCN-Endangered species that is highly adapted to live at the Pampean coastal dunes of Argentina. Several studies reported the negative effect of human-related activities on this endemic species. However, until now, the management of this lizard is precarious since no specific action plan exists to protect its populations. As in several Neotropical lizards, habitat loss and fragmentation account on the most harmful threat to Sand-Dune Lizards. Based on demography information and modeling of habitat trends we established management priorities among the current populations of sand-dune lizard. We used population viability analysis to assess extinction risk and estimate the minimum viable population and the minimum area requirement. We also estimated the amount of habitat loss due to exotic forest expansion and urbanizations and assessed the decline trends of local populations of sand-dune lizard. Finally, we set management priorities aimed at protecting these wild populations. Our models indicated that southern populations of sand-dune lizard are the less affected in terms of population decline based on habitat loss trends. Several northern populations that are at the edge of the minimum viable population number will increase their extinction risk in a few decades if habitat loss continues at the current rate. We suggest land protection as a key conservation action, but habitat recovery plus the enhancement of corridors could also increase the long-term survival of edge populations of sand-dune lizard. Supplementation with a small number of individuals translocated from neighborhood areas could stabilize unviable populations, thus it could be considered in certain situations. The conservation of the Sand-Dune Lizard is still feasible, but an urgent action plan must be developed and implemented in the short-term.