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In 2018-2019, the Marine National Park Headquarters (MNPH) commissioned two teams, respectively under Professor Shih Hsi-Te of the National Chung Hsing University and Deputy Director Chiu Yuh-Wen of the National Cheng Kung University Research and Development Foundation, to conduct a biodiversity survey of crustaceans and snails in the Dongsha Atoll National Park. A total of 134 species of crustaceans were recorded, and 74 were newly recorded species of Dongsha, of which 4 were newly recorded species in Taiwan. A total of 321 species of snails were recorded, with 146 newly recorded species, including one which was of a newly recorded family and species in Taiwan, adding five new species in total to Taiwan's record.

 

A Diverse Habitat: An Oasis for Marine Life in the South China Sea

Dongsha Atoll National Park, which encompasses the Dongsha atolls and Dongsha Islands, contains a diverse marine environment that includes lagoons, mudflats, mangroves, seaweed beds, coral reefs, and the ocean. The stable ecosystem of Dongsha is an important hotspot for marine life in the South China Sea, as it supports a rich diversity of marine life. In order to understand the diversity and distribution of species in the Dongsha Atoll National Park, the MNPH conducts a species census every five to ten years, which serves as a reference for conservation research and management. Since the survey of crustaceans and snails conducted in 2013 to now, the area has experienced dozens of typhoons. The results of this survey show that the composition of most habitat species in Dongsha is stable. In addition, the expansion of the survey stations in the atoll area has added many new species to the record, out of which, the Peasiella tantilla, is a new recorded species in Taiwan. This mini shell species has a size of only 2 mm and it was discovered unexpectedly during the species survey conducted for the tetrapod breakwater site. Another new recorded species in Taiwan is the Parasesarma dumacense. The discovery of this crab species proves that Dongsha is the northernmost boundary of this species' distribution in the South China Sea, and shows that the Dongsha atolls are an oasis for marine life in the South China Sea. With such a vast area, there are still many places to explore in the Dongsha atolls.

 

Popular Science Handbooks Enhance Marine Conservation Consensus

Crustaceans and snails are the more dominant invertebrates of the Dongsha land and waters, and are also species more widely known to the public. In order to promote marine environmental education, the MNPH published "Creatures of Dongsha" and "Iron Armor Warrior" in 2011 and 2013. The books were well received by the public with their wealth of information and illustrations. After years of accumulating information and re-compiling the content, the MNPH has published two handbooks, "Creatures of Dongsha - Common Molluscs" and "Scimitar Swordsmen - Coastal Crabs of Dongsha Islands", which present scientific knowledge in a simple and easy-to-understand manner. Through the "Mini Encyclopedia" and "Eco Tales" sections, it is hoped that people's imagination can be inspired and readers can gain a better understanding on the diversity of the species of the Dongsha atolls, helping to enhance their awareness of environmental conservation, so that they will love and care more for the ocean.

 

Image 1: Taiwan new recorded species - Peasiella tantilla (photographed by Su Chun-Yu)
Image 1: Taiwan new recorded species - Peasiella tantilla (photographed by Su Chun-Yu)
Image 2: Taiwan new recorded species - Parasesarma dumacense (photographed by Shih Hsi-Te)
Image 2: Taiwan new recorded species - Parasesarma dumacense (photographed by Shih Hsi-Te)
Image 3: New books
Image 3: New books "Creatures of Dongsha - Common Molluscs" and "Scimitar Swordsmen - Coastal Crabs of Dongsha Islands" published by the MNPH in 2020
Image 4: The waters of the Dongsha atolls contain a diverse marine environment that includes lagoons, mudflats, mangroves, seaweed beds, coral reefs, and the ocean, which support a rich diversity of marine life (satellite image from Formosat-2, courtesy of Center for Space and Remote Sensing Research).
Image 4: The waters of the Dongsha atolls contain a diverse marine environment that includes lagoons, mudflats, mangroves, seaweed beds, coral reefs, and the ocean, which support a rich diversity of marine life (satellite image from Formosat-2, courtesy of Center for Space and Remote Sensing Research).
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