Conservation of Freshwater Mussels Pan-European Approach

The COST Action CA18239 Conservation of Freshwater Mussels: Pan-European Approach aims to develop and coordinate research activities on the biodiversity and ecological role of freshwater mussels on a pan-European scale in order to establish a network of research developing new approaches to sustaining ecological functions and biodiversity of European freshwaters.

Considering the global scale of the decline, it is timely to identify threats and quantify their impact on the mussels’ diversity and abundance, whose maintenance can be an efficient nature-based solution for the monitoring of freshwaters and improvement of their quality. The Action assumes that freshwater mussels - due to their sensitivity to the water quality and their strong influence on ecological processes - can serve as a crucial biotic element in assessment and maintenance of a favourable status of freshwater systems.

There are many possible common negative threats to mussels and freshwater: the rapid, unprecedented ‘urbanisation’ of water bodies and watersheds, the invasions of alien species (IAS), climate change, destabilised hydrology, extensive sedimentation, fragmentation due to dams or other infrastructures and high levels of water pollution. As a result of these processes, most European river courses are losing their biodiversity and multifunctionality. The problem is reinforced by the increasing consequences of habitat loss, climate change, biotic homogenisation, loss of genetic diversity. The EU set the horizon in the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 to halt its loss, with a framework of policies aimed at the improvement of freshwater ecosystem functioning (i.e. the Water Framework Directive and the Floods Directive), and the conservation of its biodiversity (Convention on Biological Diversity with Aichi Targets, the Habitat Directive). These efforts must be supported by broad research on the causes and consequences of the biodiversity decline and deterioration of freshwater, including the consequences of climate change and spread of IAS. The need is also for implementation of the scientific results into policy, legislation, education and common practice.

Having a theoretical background, after collecting spatial data (on the species, their hosts, their common habitat and anthropogenic influences), the Action participants will be able to:

Added value is expected from integrating the ecological, geological and archaeological data on mussels, as well as geographical, geological, hydrological data and anthropogenic influences on their habitat. The Action will be able for the first time to propose a developed vision and strategy on freshwater-with-mussels conservation on a pan-European scale, in particular, in reference to spatial data, will allow for:

The preparation of the Pan-European map Bivalves and Their Habitats and the preparation of guidelines for EU policies, national legislations, water management, conservation actions and designation of Protected Areas.