Clams of the genus Donax are worldwide the dominating group of the invertebrate community on sandy beaches. They are primary consumers that provide a significant abundance and biomass to the ecosystem. In the Caribbean, Donax striatus has an important role for nature and human, nonetheless studies on the population dynamics of this beach clam are scarce and no information exists on secondary production of this species. Growth parameters and secondary production of D. striatus were estimated from February 2008 to November 2009 at Las Balsas beach, Northeastern Cuba, in order to provide basic information for management purposes. In each month 45 samples were taken by means of a PVC corer of 0.025 m2 area and sieved with a 1 mm mesh. Animals were measured and weighted with and without shell. A total of 5 471 specimens were collected during the sampling period. Shell length ranged from 2.7-33.3 mm. Growth parameters estimated from length frequency data were L= 36.1 mm, K= 0.8/yr and t0 = 0.2/yr. The growth performance resulted in values of Φ´= 3.02. Life span was 2.4 yrs and mortality rate was 3.07 /yr. In 2008, mean abundance of D. striatus ranged between 17.1-770.7 ind./m2. In 2009 the lowest mean abundance was 34.4 and the highest was 892.5 ind./m2. During 2009 biomass and production was more than twice higher in comparison with 2008. Individual production showed highest values in the 24 mm shell size (3.74 g/m2.yr) and 25 mm (0.71 g/m2.yr), considering mass with shell and without shell, respectively. During 2009 abundance of individuals with 15 mm shell length or more increased resulting in higher biomass and production, compared to 2008. Using the conversion factor of wet mass to ash free dry mass (AFDM), annual production ranged between 2.87-6.11 g AFDM/m2.yr, resulting in a turnover rate (P/B) between 5.11 and 3.47 in 2008 and 2009, respectively. The rapid growth and high turnover rate of D. striatus suggest a rapid recovery of the population. These results support the idea that this beach clam is an important resource at Las Balsas beach. Thus its exploitation must continue with caution, and only at the level of a recreational fishery.
Keywords: Donax striatus, growth, mortality, secondary production, biomass, sandy beaches.