Saturday, 26 November 2011

Europe’s freshwater snails under threat

The European Red List, a part of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has assessed around 6000 species of European flora and fauna to provide status reviews for different animal groups.

Status reviews have been completed for mammals, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, dragonflies and saproxylic beetles with the mollusc, vascular plant and freshwater fish reviews being presented this week.

Out of all the groups assessed by the European Red List freshwater molluscs are now the most threatened group with 44% of all freshwater molluscs and 20% of a selection of terrestrial molluscs now under threat.

Duncan Sivell, Buglife Biodiversity Officer said “this European report reflects the situation in Britain where we have several mollusc species that have declined to the point where they are just clinging on. Rare snail populations are struggling to survive at a number of locations around the country; from the very centre of London to remote mountain streams in the Highlands.”

But there is some positive news for the species that have been designated conservation measures. For example, Spengler’s Freshwater Mussel (Margaritifera auricularia) is now restricted to a handful of rivers in France and Spain. Considered extinct in the 1980s is now listed as endangered with a European-level Action Plan designed for the conservation of this species.

The related Fresh water pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) is not doing so well in Britain where we have a globally important population. These mussels can live for more than a hundred years but many populations are entirely made up of old individuals; the current generation of mussels is missing.Unless this trend reverses these populations are effectively dead.

Duncan said “the report does show that we can pull species back from the brink if there is a willingness to do so, and there is certainly a need to focus our efforts on conserving these enigmatic species.”

To find out more about The European Red List, a part of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species please click on this link.

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