The £1.5million BIFFA funded Fresh Water Pearl Mussel project has come to completion after it began back in 2015. The project, that set out to PROTECT, SECURE and RESTORE Freshwater Pearl Mussels across England, consisted of five partner organisations, including South Cumbria Rivers Trust to work at reversing the decline of this critically endangered species across the country.
Freshwater Pearl mussels rely on pristine water conditions, with a high oxygen content with numbers acting as a river health indicator. Elevated pollutants, sediment input, eutrophication and dredging have all had negative impacts on the freshwater pearl mussel, leading to numbers declining as much as 95%.
Over the past three years SCRT have managed catchment processes, physical habitat characteristics and water quality issues in order to successfully deliver significant improvements to habitats for the freshwater pearl mussel populations. This has meant activities such as; research trials with dissolved oxygen analysis, running educational workshops with local schools and work on a reintroduction programme with juvenile mussels.
Here are some figures from the work carried out over the past three years:-
- 7 new licences granted- This allowed for an increase in survey effort which in turn improved collective knowledge of the species.
- The project completed 161 public events to increase engagement and awareness, which reached approx. 3789 people.
- There have been 270 volunteer tasks, that generated 8047 hours of hard work on behalf of the species.
- A wide collaborative project, engaging; community groups, schools, individuals, education organisations and funders.
- River habitat improvements, including; 112,912 metres of river surveyed across 107 sites, 525,271 metres of river bank fenced, 3,421 metres of bank stabilisation across 24 sites, 4,388 trees planted, 11 sites improved for flow regime & gravel habitat and 81,355 metres managed for Invasive Non-Native Species.
There is still work to do that requires looking at long term solutions for the species and juvenile monitoring to ensure successful reintroduction. However, some successful results for the project to date and we hope to maintain local as well as national support for the work that is ongoing.