10 Feb 2016

Freshwater mussels strongly threatened

A European study led by Manuel Lopes-Lima, (CIIMAR) and Ronaldo Sousa (CIIMAR/U.Minho), draws attention to the conservation status of freshwater mussels in Europe.

Researchers comprehensively review the status of the 16 currently recognized species in Europe, collating for the first time their life-history traits, distribution, conservation status, habitat preferences, and main threats in order to suggest future management actions.

The decline of these species at European level, including Portugal, stems from the various human activities that result in habitat loss and fragmentation, overexploitation, pollution, loss of host fishes, introduction of non-native species, water abstraction and climate change. In Portugal are described 6 endangered species, including Margaritifera margaritifera (critically endangered), Potomida littoralis (threatened) and Union tumidiformis (vulnerable).

The study suggests a greater international cooperation using standardized protocols and methods to monitor and manage European freshwater mussel diversity. Such an approach will not only help conserve this vulnerable group but also, through the protection of these important organisms, will offer wider benefits to freshwater ecosystems.

"Conservation status of freshwater mussels in Europe: state of the art and future challenges" was published in the Biological Reviews Journal and also includes the participation of another 3 Portuguese researchers (Elsa Froufe - CIIMAR; Simone Balconies - UTAD; Amilcar Teixeira - IPB), in a total of 49 researchers of 26 European countries.