What is it about?

By the 1980's collared lizards were rapidly going extinct in the Ozarks, where they live on glades: rocky, desert-like areas. We cleared out the woody vegetation from several glades and reintroduced collared lizards to these restored habitats. Most populations persisted, but only when we burned the entire landscape surrounding the glades did the lizards thrive. The lizards could now move through the landscape and colonize new glades on their own, thereby reversing local extinction.

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Why is it important?

Habitat fragmentation is a common causes of extinction, and therefore of great conservation concern. The suppression of woodland fires in the Ozarks created a dense woody understory that collared lizards could not travel through, leading to fragmentation and extinction. We showed that prescribed burning of the woodlands allowed them to disperse, thereby restoring genetic diversity to previously isolated populations and the colonization of new glades. This study revealed the importance of prescribed burns on the population health of these lizards, as well as many other plant and animal species. The prescribed burning made it possible to reintroduce other species that had gone extinct in the Ozarks, such as elk.


I saw my first collared lizard in the Ozarks as a boy while hiking with my boy-scout troop. I was amazed at these large and colorful lizards and their ability to run on their hind legs. I found many other glades on which they lived. Decades later I returned to Missouri as a faculty member, and a colleage wanted to see these populations. I was appalled to discover that most of these populations were now extinct. This motivated me to do additional studies that revealed that the lizard populations had become fragmented, with no movement between even nearby glades. This observation motivated the conservation program described in this paper, which has turned out to be highly successful for the lizards and many other native species.

Alan Templeton
Washington University in Saint Louis

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Invited Minireview: Restoring Demographic Processes in Translocated Populations: The Case of Collared Lizards in the Missouri Ozarks Using Prescribed Forest Fires, Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution, May 2007, Brill, DOI: 10.1560/ijee.53.2.179.
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