Presentation of the Giant Pearl Mussel LIFE Project

The Giant Pearl Mussel LIFE+ project (Conservation of the Giant Pearl Mussel in Europe, LIFE13 BIO/FR/001162) is a project aiming at preserving and conserving Giant Pearl Mussel populations (Margaritifera auricularia).
  • LIFE+ is the European Union financial instrument for the environment, dedicated to environmental projects. It finances activities contributing to the development and implementation of Community policy and legislation in the environmental field.
  • The Giant Pearl Mussel LIFE+ project is a project funded by the European Union and managed by the Francois Rabelais University of Tours and the Charentes Maritime County Council as associated beneficiary..
The Giant Pearl Mussel populations significantly diminished for the past two decades. Margaritifera auricularia is today classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN and a National Action Plan (NAP) was developed for the protection of the specie.
The Giant Pearl Mussel LIFE+ project is based on the recommendations of this NPA.

This Giant Pearl Mussel LIFE+ project aims at preserving the existing populations and at reintroducing the existing young mussel populations into the wild to replenish populations and recolonize the fields. Here are the main LIFE project actions:

The main actions of the LIFE project:

Reproduction and reintroduction

A breeding station was built on the Chinon university establishment, right near the Giant Pearl Mussel of Vienna populations. The breeding will be carried out from different French populations to ensure the genetic diversity of the specie and from different age groups.

Habitats restoration

Led by the Charentes Maritime Departemental Council, a dredging action will be led in the Charente rivern main location of the Giant Pearl Mussels. The river dredging will restore natural habitats of Margaritifera auricularia, currently unsuitable to its survival because of the silt, and protect the neighbouring populations endangered by the silt encroachment.


Margaritifera auricularia is a specie still scientifically unknown. Rediscovered in 1998 while it was believed extinct in France, very few studies have been carried out on its ecology. The research part of this LIFE+ project will allow the development of scientific knowledge on its interaction with its environment, and among others, it will enable to determinate if other host fishes than the European Sturgeon exist for the Giant Pearl Mussel reproduction. Host fishes are key players in the reproduction of the Giant Pearl Mussel and allow the glochidias (mussel’s larvae) to develop in their gills, during the first stage of their development. They nourish themselves from the body fluids of the host fish.
Moreover, an important research work will focus on to developing knowledge on the development of the Giant Pearl Mussel in its earlier years, as well as its diet in order to be able to launch against the fragility of young mussels

Conservation status redefinition, on a local and international level :

This action aims at establishing protective measures (Prefectorial Order for the protection of biotope for example) in order to protect existing populations and their habitats and to revise the protection status of the specie at a European level.


The communication on the specie will enable to reach a wide public and raise the awareness about the importance of protecting the Giant Pearl Mussel and enable acceptance of restrictive measures on the protection of this endangered mussel. To achieve these objectives, different communication tools are developed such as a website, a leaflet, exhibition panels, a movie, scientific publications…