LIFE Project Cover Photo

Sustainable land use management for the conservation of the freshwater pearl mussel

Reference: LIFE13 NAT/IE/000144 | Acronym: LIFE Kerry



The catchments of the rivers Caragh and Blackwater in Kerry are important for a number of habitats and species, including the endangered freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera). The conservation status of this species has, over the years, declined due to land mismanagement, with diffuse sediment and nutrient losses being the main causes. There is an urgent need to reverse this decline and improve the conservation status of freshwater pearl mussels in these rivers, by the development and implementation of effective and cost-efficient measures for reducing diffuse losses of sediment and nutrients from forestry and farming.


The KerryLIFE project is taking place in Natura 2000 network areas in south-west Ireland, within the Killarney National Park, which includes Macgillycuddy's Reeks and the Caragh River catchment, and the Blackwater River site in Kerry.

The project’s objectives are:

  • To demonstrate effective conservation measures that will restore the freshwater pearl mussel to favourable conservation status in the Caragh and Blackwater catchments;
  • To enhance awareness and understanding of the freshwater pearl mussel among local stakeholders;
  • To demonstrate sustainable management techniques for farming and forestry in freshwater pearl mussel catchments; and
  • To provide guidance for farming and forestry practices that support the conservation of freshwater pearl mussels.
  • Expected results:

  • An improvement in the condition of the habitat of the freshwater pearl mussel through a reduction in siltation and eutrophication;
  • Increased recruitment of juvenile mussels to the population;
  • Reduced losses of silt and nutrients from forest and farm project sites;
  • Greater awareness and understanding of freshwater pearl mussels among the local community and key stakeholders;
  • A school educational programme delivered to 12 national and five secondary schools in the project area;
  • A well-designed and informative website;
  • A pearl mussel tourist walkway;
  • The successful implementation of approximately 25 farm and 10 forest management plans;
  • The sustainable management of farm (2 500 ha) and forest (485 ha) drainage systems;
  • The provision of 20 alternative drinking water facilities on farms;
  • The establishment of 15 ha of native woodland;
  • The management of 10 ha of existing broadleaf woodland;
  • The conversion of 15 ha to native broadleaf woodland;
  • The restructuring of 175 ha of commercial plantations into long-term retention woodland;
  • The provision of at least 10 training workshops and 10 demonstration events to farmers, forest owners and other river catchment users;
  • The distribution of four best practice guides for a diverse range of end-users involved in catchment management hosting over 10 million freshwater pearl mussels; and
  • A report on the feasibility of local marketing initiatives and the establishment of a local supplier and consumer network.


    Reference: LIFE13 NAT/IE/000144
    Acronym: LIFE Kerry
    Start Date: 01/07/2014
    End Date: 31/08/2020
    Total Eligible Budget: 4,879,861 €
    EU Contribution: 2,439,924 €
    Project Location:


    Coordinating Beneficiary: Department of housing, local government and heritage
    Legal Status: PAT
    Address: Custom House, D016WX0, Dublin, Ireland
    Contact Person: Andy Bleasdale
    Email: Send Email
    Website: Visit Website

    LIFE Project Map



    • Invertebrates


    • freshwater ecosystem
    • land use planning
    • nature conservation
    • endangered species


    • 3260 - Water courses of plain to montane levels with the Ranunculion fluitantis and Callitricho-Batrachion vegetation
    • 4010 - Northern Atlantic wet heaths with Erica tetralix
    • 4030 - European dry heaths
    • 91E0 - "Alluvial forests with Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior (Alno-Padion, Alnion incanae, Salicion albae)"


    • Margaritifera margaritifera


    Type Code Name
    SCI IE0000365 Killarney National Park, Macgillycuddy's Reeks and Caragh River Catchment SAC
    SCI IE0002173 Blackwater River (Kerry) SAC


    Name Type
    Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Coordinator
    DAFM(Nitrates, Biodiversity and Engineering Division, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine), Ireland Participant
    Coillte(Coillte Teoranta / The Irish Forestry Board Limited), Ireland Participant
    Teagasc(Teagasc - Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland Participant
    FS-DAFM(Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Forest Service)), Ireland Participant
    SKDP(South Kerry Development Partnership Ltd), Ireland Participant