The area of lowland heath near Wareham in Dorset forms part of an internationally recognised site of nature conservation importance, the Dorset Heathlands. This complex of habitats, underlain by important sand and gravel deposits has been quarried for decades. The result is a mosaic of early successional heathland and acid grassland habitats across Masters Quarry. These habitats support nationally important populations of the rare sand lizard Lacerta agilis, as well as the 6 native species of reptile found in the UK, and are rich in biodiversity.
Sand lizards are often limited on heathland due to the absence or scarcity of suitable sand for egg-laying and this is of significance as designated heathland sites have become less favourable due to encroachment of scrub and lack of management.
Continued planned extraction at Masters must proceed in conjunction with a programme of translocation of protected reptiles to receptor sites. The project will investigate the current extent of habitat with the potential to support sand lizards at Masters and focus on the creation, restoration and enhancement of suitable receptor sites which provide key habitat features, including suitable sand for egg laying, necessary to support sustainable, viable breeding populations of sand lizard.
It will also develop specs to inform best practice in the restoration of dry heathland to enable the rich biodiversity of these habitats to be maintained in favourable condition in the long term.