Multi-million pound plan to safeguard rare pearl mussels

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Media captionThe project will focus on 21 of the most important conservation sites between Sutherland and Snowdonia

A £3.5m project to save the rare freshwater pearl mussel has begun throughout Britain.

About 50% of the known breeding populations of the rare pearl mussel in Europe are in Britain, and in particular, in Scotland.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) put in a joint bid for European funding.

Scientists hope the action between governments, conservation groups and fishery trusts will secure the future population of the rare mussels.

The four-year project will focus on 21 of the most important conservation sites between Sutherland and Snowdonia.

Scientists said the loss of these populations would have a catastrophic impact on the survival of the pearl mussel in Europe.

Doctor Iain Sime, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), said: "The freshwater pearl mussel has suffered a catastrophic decline across its former range.

"It is important and we need to care because it is an excellent indicator of good water quality, and we all need good quality drinking water.

"As part of the project we will be seeking to encourage agricultural land managers and woodland managers to take up simple measures that will improve the conservation of their local freshwater pearl mussel populations.

"As part of the project we are aiming to restore river channels and plant trees along more than 70 kilometres of riverbanks to help provide the habitats which the pearl mussels need to flourish."

The project is being co-funded by the European Commission's LIFE+ fund, following the bid by the SNH and 14 other funding partners.

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