PEARLS IN THE CLASSROOM
Pearls in the classroom will be delivered to primary schools in 20 pSCIs. Through this classroom project we aim to raise awareness of the freshwater pearl mussel amongst children in local communities, as well as highlighting the species’ important cultural history in Britain. We will teach primary school children about its unusual lifecycle, its habitat requirements, and about threats to the species’ survival. Pearls in the classroom aims to deliver this information through classroom visits and fieldtrips.
A range of educational materials will be available to download from the project website www.snh.gov.uk/protecting-scotlands-nature/protected-species/life-projects/pearls-in-peril/ and these will be added to throughout the duration of the project.
A River Watcher has been appointed and is based in Beauly, Highland. The main aim of this post is to combat illegal activities concerning pearl mussels. These include pearl fishing and pollution. The River Watcher will be working closely with the Police Scotland and the National Wildlife Crime Unit, fisheries trusts and landowners throughout 16 SACs in Scotland. The River Watcher will collect evidence of suspected crimes and set up riverwatch schemes. These schemes will inform river users about illegal activities, what to look for and how to report any evidence.
On the River Dee a programme of riparian enhancement has begun, with tree enclosures now in place along the banksides of three tributaries. Each fenced enclosure is small (approx. 5 x 5 m) with about 20 native trees planted in each. The aim is to establish areas of wooded buffer strips to create dappled shade, improve the nutrient status of the watercourse and help stabilise banks. All of this will have knock-on benefits for biodiversity, in particular FWPM and Atlantic salmon. This is the start of things to come, as 70 km of river bank will be planted in the next 3.5 years.
This summer, survey work will begin on the upper reaches of the River South Esk to explore the suitability of sites for future in-stream restoration work. The results will allow us to select the most appropriate site-based restoration options for restoring natural processes and improving freshwater pearl mussel and salmonid habitat.
Over the next few months plans will be developed to plant approximately 16 ha of riparian native woodland along the mainstem South Esk and several tributaries, covering around 5 km of riverbanks in Glen Clova. The proposals also include the management of existing riparian woodland to exclude grazing, to encourage regeneration and more diverse vegetation; and felling dense Sitka spruce to facilitate a more native and diverse riparian habitat.
Fisheries biologists from the Ness and Beauly and the Outer Hebrides Fisheries Trusts have recently undergone training to encyst salmon and trout with freshwater pearl mussel glochidia. Starting this summer, the project aims to increase reproductive success in pearl mussel populations in North Harris and the River Moriston.