Species diversity in Mendieta beach in Paracas

Project: Marine invertebrate and subtidal habitat diversity in Mendieta Beach in the Paracas National Reserve
Year of implementation: 2001
Donor: ProNaturaleza
Project Director: Stefan Austermühle
Field Assistents / Divers:
Jorge Bentín

Location: Mendieta Beach, Paracas National Reserve
Goals:
• Determine the number of subtidal habitats in Mendieta Beach.
• Evaluate subtidal invertebrate diversity.
• Analyze benthic invertebrate communities.
• Evaluate existing environmental impacts of artisan fisheries

Results
As a result of the geologic diversity of the seabed within the small bay of Mendieta Beach (see three dimensional map) 18 different habitats with their own subtidal invertebrate communities have been identified. The kelp forest habitats have been the ones with the highest levels of invertebrate diversity and a maximum number of 62 species.
In total, 17 species of echinoderms have been collected. Eight of these species have been formerly registered in the Paracas National Reserve and represent 50 percent of all formerly known species from the area of the reserve. Nine species have been registered for the first time in the Paracas National Reserve.
61 species of mollusks have been collected. 52 of them have been formerly registered in the Reserve representing 27 percent of all mollusk species known from the area. Nine species have been registered for the first time in the area of the Paracas National Reserve.
30 species of crustacean have been collected in the area. 24 of these species had been formerly registered in the area and represent 19 percent of all crustacean species known from the area. Six species have been registered in the national reserve for the first time.
The impact of commercial shellfish collection by artisan divers is severe. In one month of work only seven juvenile specimens of the mollusk species Chocolate rock shell (Thais chocolata), a handful of juvenile and adult species of the crab species Cancer setosus and only one octopus have been encountered.
Based on the high level of invertebrate and habitat diversity, Mendieta Beach should be recognized as a marine biodiversity hot spot within the Paracas National Reserve. Commercial fishing within the small bay should be prohibited for at least five years in order to allow the recuperation of commercial shellfish species. It then should be allowed under a sustainable management plan employing minimum sizes and fishing quotas

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