Verkeån river

The main purpose with LIFE CONNECTS in Verkeån river is to improve connectivity and river habitats to gain favorable conservation status for prioritised Nature 2000 habitat types and related species such as Thick-shelled river mussel.

Verkeån (also called Verkaån) is located in the eastern part of Skåne county. The catchment area is 153 km2 and the total length of the river including tributaries is approximately 50 km long. The river originates on Linderödsåsen in Hörby municipality and has a winding character on its way to the sea where it runs through open landscapes with patches of rich deciduous forests and planted coniferous forest before it enters into the Gulf of Hanöbukten in the Baltic Sea.
Verkeån river has an unusually high water quality compared to other similar rivers in the region. Despite this, the river is affected by humans through straightening, cleaning of riverbed structures and damming. This have lead to that the river has moderate ecological status (classification according to the Water Framework Directive, WFD). Migrating obstacles are mainly due to older mills, of which the majority have high cultural historical values. To take cultural environments into account and at the same time create free migrition pathways, fauna passages is preferred in these environments. Fauna passages in combination with river restoration enables fish migration and transport of sediment whitin the system, while at the same timemore natural habitats and riverbed structure favor all aquatic organisms.

Despite the high water quality of Verkeån river, only 9 species of fish have been reported to occur in the river, including river lamprey (Lampetra spp), Eurasian minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus), European bullhead (Cottus gobio), European eel (Anguilla anguilla) and Brown trout (Salmo trutta). Several of these species may host mussels. Shell findings of Thick-shelled river mussel (Unio crassus) indicate that the species has been found in the river, although no alive mussels have been found in recent times. Thick-shelled river mussel is today threatened in Sweden and included in the Habitats Directive as a protected species. Other aquatic species that are also protected according to the Habitats Directive, which are found in the Verkeån river catchment area, are Notherns crested newt (Triturus cirstatus) and beetle (Dytiscus latissimus). These are also prioritised in the conservation plan for the Natura 2000 sites in Verkeån river catchment. Verkeån river also has high values ​​for several other plants and animals that live near the river, especially birds such as the Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), but also mammals such as the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra).
Improved migration and restoration of habitats in Verkeån river are important measures for migratory fish species, such as brown trout and eels that migrate to the sea, and also for other species that need to migrate within the river. River restoration combined with the re-introduction of Thick-shelled river mussel, LIFE CONNECTS will contribute to the reestablishment of the mussel in Verkeån river. The measures will significantly improve fish migration, hydrology, water quality, biodiversity, fish production and habitats in Verkeån river and thereby improve the conservation status of prioritised Nature 2000 habitat types and related species in Verkeån river.

The lower parts of the Verkeån river constitute Natura 2000 sites and the priority habitats linked to water are “Dystrophic lakes and small waters” and “Waters with floating leaf vegetation or aquatic mosses” (Natura 2000 codes: 3160, 3260). The designated Natura 2000 species linked to aquatic environments are Kingfisher, European bullhead, Dytiscus latissimus and Northern crested newt.
When the effects of the measures show favorable conservation status, the management plans for the Natura 2000 sites will be revised. Similarly, the plan for national interest in outdoor recreation will be revised. Verkeån river is a popular area for bird watching and hiking and is known for riding along the river in the beautiful nature reserve. Many tourists visit the place every year to see and experience its beauty. LIFE CONNECTS will contribute to improve the attraction of the river and make pople aware of its values.

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