Actions

LIFE CONNECTS encompasses a variety of actions. It is restauration measures too information activities and investigations. All actions in the project will not be performed at all project sites. Below is a brief description of the actions that are included in the project.

Free passage

To improve safe fish migration up and downstreams from obstacles like hydropower plants different types of measures are needed. It can be removal of the obstacle or creating fish passages. In the projects target rivers it is important to improve fish migration not only for the fishes. There are two threathened mussel species, Unio crassus and Margaritifera margaritifera, that are dependent on the migration of hostfishes for their reproduction. Within LIFE CONNECTS four hydropower plants will be removed and at two fish passages will be created. Additional, around thirteen dams not connected to hydropower will be removed and eight fish passages created.

River restoration

Many rivers are affected by human activities such as damming, drainage and removal of larger substrates which has altered the rivers connectivity and morphology that leads to habitat degredation and lack of spawning grounds for fishes. To regain more natural river habitats river restorations are needed. It can be done by restoring natural functions of the river such as riverbed structures by adding Boulders and stones back to the riverbed. River restoration will be conducted on 147 km river whithin the seven target rivers.

Mussel introduction

The Thick-shelled river mussel (Unio crassus) and the Freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) are two of Europe´s most threatened freshwater mussels. Today they are present only at few rivers in Sweden and found mostly in rivers with free flowing water. The mussels have a complex lifecycle which includes a parasitic stage on the gills of a host fish. They can become very old, up to 100 years, which makes them particularly vulnerable to disturbance and altered habitats. In many rivers older mussels can be found but there are no recruitment of young mussels due to lack of host fishes. LIFE CONNECTS will improve the migration of host fishes in the seven target rivers and hence improve the ability for the mussels to reproduce and survive from larvae to adult. To further improve the mussel populations in the three target rivers in Skåne county; Rönne å, Helge å – Vramsån and Verkeån, mussels will be reintroduced by infestation of glochidia (larvae) on host fishes. In addition, both female and male adult mussels will be collected at vital mussel beds in the targeted rivers or within the catchment and translocated to the restored habitats.

Monitoring

Monitoring of target species and habitat conditions will be carried out pre- and post restorations and after the re-introduction of freshwater mussels has been carried out. The monitoring will encompass investigations of the geomorphological and hydrological regim in the rivers, water Chemistry, abundance, composition and migration rates of fish and abundaces and survival rates of mussels. The so called BACI approach (before-after-control-impact) will be used to monitor the conditions prior to the restoration and the effects of restoration and mussel re-introductions. The approach will allow to identify changes in physical-chemical parameters related to the project, as well as species abundances and composition.


Water status

For geomorphological and hydrological diversity water depth, flow velocity, substate composition and the presence of Woody debris and vegetation will be invastigated with transects at the monitoring sites of the target rivers. The riverbed and riparian wones will be mapped and analyzed using drones and image analysis. Monitoring of water chemistry will include oxygen, nutrient, dissolved organic matter, pH and alkalinity.

Fish

Densities, biomasses and species composition will be investigated and quantified by means of electrofishing. The disperal and migration rates of fish will be monitored using video fish counters that will be installed in three of the target rivers; Rönne å, Mörrumsån and Emån. 

Mapping of salmon migration behavior and habitat selection before and after restorationmeasures eill be monitored by using a combination of high-resolution acoustic telemetry and the video fish counters.

Socio-economy

The river restoration and mussel introductions will have substantial impacts on abiotic and biotic variables and on ecosystem functions of the rivers. Hence, it will improve the rivers ability to provide the society with ecosystem services and affect local community socially and econmical. The social and economic effects of the actions will be measured and evaluated by estimating monetary values of improved ecosystem services at local level.

Ecosystem functions

Investigations of ecosystem functions and related ecosystem services offer a powerful toolbox to gauge functional impairment and recovery in a system. The effects of the river restorations and mussel introductions whitin the project will be investigated from an ecosystem function perspective to better understand mechanisms driving processes related to dispersal of species, nutrient retention and aquatic-terrestrial linkages.

Communication and information

Communication and information are important parts of the project. One major objective is to illustrate how an ecosystem function-based restoration impacts longitudinal connectivity, habitat complexity, biodiversity and fish production in rivers, and consequently the economic growth through enhanced ecosystem functions and services. This will be done by arranging public events like “walks and talks”, seminars, and open forums. Further, school activities will be arranged to invite kids to learn more about and experience river restorations and the importance of functional riversystems. To inform about the Project LIFE CONNECTS will participate on national and international Conferences as well as present the project at two visitor centers in target rivers; Rönne å and Mörrumsån.

Transfer and replication

Results achieved whithin the Project can be very useful for others to promote measures in other places whitin the target rivers or other rivers across the country and Europé. By collaboations with several partners, authorities and local stakeholders methods and “good exampels” can result in new projects and measurements. LIFE CONNECTS can work as an inspiration and lead to the improval of waters across Europe.

This post is also available in: Svenska (Swedish)