MARINE PROTECTED AREA DESIGN FOR BAHÍA PORTETE-LA GUAJIRA, COLOMBIAN CARIBBEAN
Using an ecorregional planning process for the selection of conservation priority sites in the Colombian Caribbean region and the qualification of ecological criteria, bahía Portete was identified as a potential site for the establishment of a new Marine Protected Area (MPA). This bay encompass a great variety of marine and coastal ecosystems, including fish, planktonic, and benthic communities as well as species that in conjunction with the environmental features form an area of high heterogeneity and unique biodiversity in the province of La Guajira. The purpose of this research was to design the first MPA in the north of the Province through the evaluation of ecologic criteria, as well as proposed conservation and management objectives; setting up a management category within the existing National Protected Areas System (SINAP in Spanish). Therefore, based on secondary information and following the “The five S framework”, methodology design by The Nature Conservancy for site planning, five conservation objectives (OdC) of coarse-filter or habitats were identified: corals, seagrasses, sandy beaches, rocky coasts and mangroves ecosystems, and three OdC of fine filter: areas with presence of Crocodylus acutus, sea turtles´ feeding areas, and areas of birds congregation. A viability analysis was developed for each healthy object found within the area, thus reflecting the biodiversity health of the area. The analysis of criteria, viability and the definition of the management objectives for the area, allowed the election of National Natural Park as the most appropriate management category for the area. Based on a systematic process and with the use of the MARXAN (University of Queensland) Decision Support System (DSS), three no-take zones were identified, with which the protection of a minimum of 30% of the coverage area for each of the objects is guaranteed as the initial contribution to the internal zoning of the new MPA.
Marine Protected Areas; Bahía Portete; Biodiversity; MARXAN; National Natural Park
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