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The Project Bachmuschel

Logo LIFE Bachmuschel

LIFE Bachmuschel (thick-shelled river mussel) – a project for species and habitat conservation

LIFE Bachmuschel will focus on the stabilisation, restoration and reintroduction of thick-shelled river mussel (Unio crassus) populations within 14 Natura 2000 sites in the state of Brandenburg in the north eastern part of Germany. The thick-shelled river mussel (Unio crassus) is a characteristic species for fast-flowing, nutrient-low rivers with sandy or stony substrate and is therefore an important indicator and keystone species for intact rhithral ecosystems. It is vulnerable to changes in water chemistry, degradation of natural river valleys and species composition of the ichthyofauna as Unio crassus requires host fish for successful recruitment. Straightening, obstruction and damming of flowing waters have reduced or degraded suitable habitats and spatially isolated populations. Additionally, an increasing input of nutrient and sediment loads due to an intensive agricultural land use and inadequate river maintenance have deteriorated the chemical and ecological conditions of rivers. Due to the large negative anthropogenic impact on rivers and streams since the last century, the numbers of Unio crassus declined dramatically. The thick-shelled river mussel has been assessed “endangered” on the global IUCN Red list and “critically endangered” on the German Red list. The conservation status at both, member state and EU level, is unfavourable to bad (U2-) with negative development prospects.
The aim of the project is to conserve, increase or reintroduce thick-shelled river mussel populations in flowing waters of the Elbe, Havel and Spree catchment areas. In order to achieve this, the project aims to implement three key areas.

1. Improvement and new creation of habitat and living conditions for Unio crassus

2. Minimization of negative impacts that endanger the mussel populations

3. Reintroductions and/or reinforcements of Unio crassus in areas where the specie has become extinct, or still exists but in low and declining numbers

The LIFE Bachmuschel Team visiting colleagues in Sweden (Photo: Michael Zauft)
Gravel infill as a measure of renaturation at Rheinsberg Rhin (Photo: Michael Zauft)
Fish monitoring by IfB-staff at a creek assigned to the project (Photo: Michael Zauft)
Michael Zauft of LIFE monitors thick-shelled river mussels (Photo: Sven Matern)

LIFE Bachmuschel is a joint project in which we, the Potsdam Institute of Inland Fisheries, are working together with the Stiftung NaturSchutzFonds Brandenburg ( and the Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History ( The project runs from 2022 to 2032 and is funded with a total of 8.7 million euros from the European Union's LIFE program.


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