The Caragh and Blackwater catchments host the two largest populations of freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) in Ireland, each supporting in excess of 2,750,000 adults. Currently, the recruitment is insufficient to maintain the adult populations into the future and both are classified in unfavourable condition.
The species has particularly stringent requirements, demanding high water clarity and low nutrient concentrations, higher than in most other aquatic species. It is adversely affected by siltation and by excessive algal cover. The major causes of the unfavourable conservation condition of both the Caragh and Blackwater freshwater pearl mussel populations are regarded as diffuse sediment and nutrient losses associated with agriculture and forestry.
This project will demonstrate land use management for conserving freshwater pearl mussel populations of international importance. The project fully recognises the critical role farmers and forest-owners play in conserving the species and KerryLIFE will work collaboratively with these stakeholders. The concrete conservation actions in KerryLIFE will include drainage management to reduce sediment and nutrient loads, retrofitting and creating riparian woodland, restructuring commercial conifer plantations to long-term protective woodland, using sensitive conifer harvesting. The project will also demonstrate low impact livestock husbandry including low intensity grazing and nutrient management regimes.
The demonstration and long term delivery of sustainable land use practices will be contingent to a large extent on engaged local stakeholders. To that end, KerryLIFE will particular focus on a suite of complimentary actions, to demonstrate the value of conserving of freshwater pearl mussel to local community and key end users.
The objectives of KerryLIFE are:
- To demonstrate effective conservation measures that will restore the freshwater pearl mussel to favourable conservation condition in the Caragh and Blackwater catchments.
- To enhance awareness and understanding of the freshwater pearl mussel amongst local stakeholders.
- To demonstrate sustainable management techniques for farming and forestry in freshwater pearl mussel catchments.
- To provide guidance for farming and forestry practices that support the conservation of freshwater pearl mussels.