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Challenging exploration of troubled waters: a decade of surveys of the giant freshwater pearl mussel Margaritifera auricularia in Europe

Abstract

The critically endangered Giant Freshwater Pearl Mussel Margaritifera auricularia was presumed extinct before its rediscovery in Spain in 1985 and France in 2000. Since then, numerous surveys have been set up to search for living populations in France and Spain. This article presents an up-to-date account of species distribution based on available data, i.e. the literature, museum collections and recent field surveys, and provides unpublished molecular data for France. There are still three populations of the Giant Freshwater Pearl Mussel in the Ebro River in Spain, and eight populations in France (two in the Loire watershed, one in the Charente watershed, two in the Garonne watershed and three in the Adour watershed). The biggest population lives in the Charente River with an estimated 100,000 individuals. Recruitment is very scarce in all populations but living specimens estimated to be less than 10 years old have been found in the Ebro in Spain and in the Vienne, Charente, Dronne and Adour rivers in France. The recent rediscovery of populations in France was mainly a result of intensive dedicated surveys including scuba diving. Subsequent advances in knowledge show how large rivers and downstream ecosystems remain a terra incognita for the hydrobiologist.

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Acknowledgements

This work was conducted within the scope of the LIFE project “Life13BIOFR001162 Conservation of the Giant Pearl Mussel in Europe”. We thank Dominique Tesseyre from the Adour-Garonne Water Agency; Julie Marcinkowsky and Gérard Tardivo from the DREAL Centre as well as the DREAL Picardie for providing financial support for large-scale surveys of M. auricularia in France; Elodie Hugues, Guillaume Métayer (Conseil Général de Charente Maritime), David Bécart (Voies Navigables de France) and Amandine Szurpicki (COSEA), Frédérique Moinot and Olivier Guerri (EPIDOR) for financing focus surveys in the Charente, Seine, Vienne and Garonne Rivers; and for Spain, the Government of Arag ón, FMC Foret S.A., Enagas, Gas Natural, INYPSA, Hidroeléctrica La Zaida, Edison Mission Energy and EID Consultores.

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Guest editors: Manuel P. M. Lopes-Lima, Ronaldo G. Sousa, Lyuba E. Burlakova, Alexander Y. Karatayev & Knut Mehler / Ecology and Conservation of Freshwater Bivalves

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Prié, V., Soler, J., Araujo, R. et al. Challenging exploration of troubled waters: a decade of surveys of the giant freshwater pearl mussel Margaritifera auricularia in Europe. Hydrobiologia 810, 157–175 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-017-3456-0

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Keywords

  • Distribution
  • Museum collections
  • Historical data
  • Scuba-diving surveys
  • Large rivers
  • Conservation