The Muskrat as an Alien Species in Luxembourg

Full title: Spatiotemporal Pattern and other Ecological Aspects of the Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) as an Alien Species in Luxembourg


[singlepic=106,300,,,right]Invasive species have become an ecological and economic problem all over the world. In Luxembourg this problem becomes obvious particularly with freshwater mussels. This applies above all to the last population of the seriously endangered freshwater pearlmussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) in Luxembourg, which is located in the Natura 2000 area „Vallée supérieure de l’Our et affluents de Lieler à Dasbourg”. With respect to its population decline, the invasive species muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) plays an important part as a predator of the mussels. This rodent occurs in the same area and caused a large-scale damage in the last mussel beds in 2005/06. Therefore, to reduce the impact, trapping of the muskrat started in 2007 with uncertain success. To evaluate and improve the conservation management system of the mussels and to elucidate the ecological requirements of the muskrat in montane areas scientific work has to be done.

The study, which is run in the Our river system, aims at the determination of the space use pattern of the muskrat (e.g., annual and seasonal size and location of home ranges, habitat preferences, dispersion pattern) on the level of individuals and the population to elucidate the spreading pattern of the species with respect to the colonisation and recolonisation of (new) habitats. Another objective is the assessment of muskrat impact on freshwater mussels in the respective section of the Our river. Together with the collection of structural parameters of the population (e.g., population size, age and sex structure, reproduction rate) of the muskrat the study will deliver important data for improving the already running managment of the muskrat.

Status of PhD

PhD interrupted.

Supervisor at university: Prof. Dr. rer. Nat. habil. Mechthild Roth, Chair of Forest Zoology, Department of Forestry, Dresden University of Technology

Supervisor in Luxembourg: Edmée Engel, curator, section zoologie des vertébrés, MNHN

PhD granted by Fonds national de la recherche Luxembourg. Duration: 3 years (01.02.2009 -31.01.2012).

Host institution: Fondation faune-flore @ Centre de recherche scientifique, Musée national d’histoire naturelle.


Frank Richarz
Musée national d’histoire naturelle
Centre de recherche scientifique
Laboratoire / Section zoologie des vertébrés
24, rue Münster
L-2160 Luxembourg

Publications and not published works

  • Richarz F, Elle O, Zimmermann M (2007) Massenhaftes Auftreten der Südlichen Eichenschrecke (Meconema meridionale) in Trier als Erstnachweis einer etablierten Population im rheinland-pfälzischen Moseltal. Articulata 22(1): 81-90.
  • Richarz F (o.J.) (non publ.) Entwicklung und Evaluierung eines non-invasiven Monitoringinstruments für Mauswiesel (Mustela nivalis L. 1766) und Hermelin (Mustela erminea L. 1758). Diploma Thesis, University of Trier.