Protecting the vulnerable sand lizard in Sweden

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The sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) is a species of lizard that is classified as endangered even though it can be found in most of Europe, including in Stora Enso’s forests in central Sweden. The sand lizard has become extremely rare due to the loss of sandy heath and dune habitats. New populations have been established through translocation of eggs.

In Brattforsheden, in Värmland province in central Sweden, you can find one of the most successful projects carried out to create suitable habitats for sand lizards. Thanks to the measures that Stora Enso has taken together with the County Administrative Board, the Swedish Forest Agency and the Diocese of Karlstad, sand lizard populations have increased remarkably in Brattforsheden.

Creating sunny spots for the sand lizard

For sand lizards to thrive and lay eggs, there need to be patches of sand that absorb a lot of heat from the sun. During the winter of 2020–2021, an adapted final felling was carried out in Brattforsheden to create about 30 new sand spots in an area of 30 hectares. To create deadwood on the ground, more than 200 pines were cut into high stumps or cut down using excavators. An additional 65 hectares already inhabited by sand lizards were cleared to allow more sunlight into the area. These measures are important for biodiversity in general but especially for several endangered species.

“We have succeeded in moving lizard eggs to completely new sites and in this way have created new populations. This work is some of the most important in protecting endangered species. The results have been great,” says Sven-Åke Berglind from the County Administrative Board in Värmland. “We expect that these measures will increase the number of sand lizards in the area by 100–200%,” he adds.

The sand lizard has responded very positively to the large-scale measures in Värmland and the size of the population has increased significantly in recent years. In addition to the completely new populations that have been built up, since 1988 female sand lizard incidence has increased from about 10 mature females to approximately 90 per population today.

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Facts about Sand Lizards

Listed as a European Protected Species under Annex IV of the European Habitats Directive

Each individual can live up to 20 years.

About 20 centimeters long when mature, and weigh about 15 grams.

Eat insects such as grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars and spiders.

Males are green, females brown. Both often have vertical rows of black spots.

During the mating season the males become an intense green colour.

Source: AZ Animals (

Photo cred: Sven-Åke Berglind