Here, we present the 4.9 M€ UC4LIFE-project which aim to strengthen the conservation status of the endangered thick shelled river mussel (Unio crassus) and improve the ecological riverine status within its distribution range. As being a key-stone species, actions beneficial for Unio crassus will positively impact water quality, biodiversity, including other endangered species such as Atlantic salmon, bullhead, freshwater pearl mussel and otter. Unio crassus constitute the main “flag-ship species” for river restoration actions at 12 project sites, covering c 40 K ha. Major actions include host-fish mapping, re-meandering measures (five km), removal of migration obstacles and cultivation and re-introduction of Unio crassus at two sites.
1) Mapping host-fish utilization by Unio crassus to ensure successful conservation actions for both the mussels and host-fish species.
2) Recreate natural river dynamics by restoring structures (ie substrate and cover) and processes (ie connectivity and corridor functions).
3) Re-introduction by stocking Unio crassus juveniles and glochidia-infected host-fish.
4) Information events to gain public awareness about river restoration issues.
Alongside the habitat oriented actions, we aim to build up public knowledge and awareness about the importance of river restoration and management by using Unio crassus as the “pedagogue”. Thus, information campaigns and field trips with “hands-on activities” for local school kids and families will be conducted as part of the project.
The central goal is that experiences obtained from this project will have positive long-term effects, functioning as a catalyst initiating additional river restoration projects worldwide. Thus, the UC4LIFE-project will not be silent as a mussel!