The freshwater crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) is a species listed in the Annexes II and V of the Habitat Directive, and currently threatened of extinction due to several factors such as changes in water quality, in water flows and in river morphology, as well as the presence of exotic crayfish species carrying crayfish plague. In Lombardy the LIFE CRAINAT project successfully carried out concrete actions aimed at the conservation of the native crayfish: 16 A. pallipes populations belonging to at least 2 different ESU (Evolutionarily Significant Units) were discovered, 4.500 individuals were bred in the 2 breeding centers launched, youngsters and/or adults were freed in 14 creeks, 7 environmental and river restoration projects were implemented and 3 multifunctional ponds created, 6 emergency GReG groups were established and the environmental education activities reached out to 15.000 people, both children and adults. The Gestire2020 project envisions for the activities originally implemented through the Crainat project to spread as stated in the Conservation action plan, to other areas: SCI IT2010019 Monti della Valcuvia, SCI IT2020011 Spina verde, SCI IT2030003 Monte Barro, SPA IT2070402 Alto Garda Bresciano, where the species is still present and where conservation actions need to be strengthened.
The project calls for the development of Austropotamobius pallipes conservation measures and actions (Action A15), especially focusing on updating information on both native (A. pallipes) and exotic (Procambarus clarkii e Orconectes limosus) freshwater crayfish populations, on DNA profiling of newly discovered Austropotamobius spp. populations, on the hydrologic study of the target Natura 2000 sites, on the design of habitat restoration actions suitable for the species and on creating new crayfish rescue groups (“GReG”), set up as emergency expert groups able to take up immediate action for the conservation of native crayfish population suddenly at life risk. Concrete conservation actions will start right from the project first phase and will carry on all through its lifespan, also thanks to the operations set up during the Crainat project which are already running (Action C6). The breeding centers in Prabione, Tignale (BS) and in Prim’Alpe, Canzo (CO) will carry on breeding youngsters which will then be released into the wild. Furthermore, the activities planned in the preparatory action (Action A15) will be implemented: youngster breeding, exotic crayfish control, habitat restoration.
The Natura 2000 sites managing authorities involved in the implementation of the concrete actions will also cooperate in the divulgation and dissemination of good practices aimed at crayfish conservation (Action E9) in order to both display to a wide public the results of the concrete actions and to promote good managing practices. Among the planned activities are technical meetings, networking with other managing bodies in order to encourage the sharing of expertise, educational activities partnering with schools and awareness raising actions targeting locals and protected areas visitors.