Post-hurricane relief facilitates invasion and establishment of two invasive alien vertebrate species in the Commonwealth of Dominica, West Indies

  • Matthijs P. van den BurgEmail author
  • Jeanelle L. K. Brisbane
  • Charles R. Knapp
Invasion Note


Invasive alien species (IAS) are a main driver of current global change and contribute significantly to decreases in biodiversity worldwide. To prevent new introductions and establishment of IAS, it is important to identify mechanisms of incursion. On 18 September 2017, Hurricane Maria, a category-5 Atlantic storm, made landfall on the Commonwealth of Dominica causing widespread destruction. Responding to the post-hurricane situation, countries and organizations provided a large range of aid including funds, medical and security support, and relief supplies. Here we report the incursion and establishment of two vertebrate IAS on Dominica during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria—the Common Green Iguana (Iguana iguana) and Cuban Treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis)—representing a 20% increase in vertebrate alien species on Dominica. We also report observations of Venezuela Snouted Treefrogs (Scinax x-signatus). Collectively, these species were found at four sites spread along the Caribbean and south coast of Dominica, within or near ports of entry. Invasions of I. iguana and O. septentrionalis are especially worrisome given their known impacts on native species on other Caribbean islands. Though understandable given the human impact caused by severe weather events, these incursions suggest that biosecurity is not implemented by aid-facilitating countries and organizations. With the predicted increase in hurricane intensity and frequency, we suggest basic biosecurity and training programs to reduce incursion threats of IAS during future relief and recovery initiatives. For Dominica, we recommend mitigation programs with additional biological surveys to control and better understand the number of incursion and their impact on post-Maria Dominica.


Biosecurity Caribbean Emergency aid Hurricane Iguana delicatissima Iguana iguana Osteopilus septentrionalis 



We thank two anonymous reviewers whom helped to improve an early version of this manuscript. We thank the Forestry, Wildlife, and Parks Division of Dominica for sharing data on sightings of reported alien species. This research was supported by The National Geographic Society (EC-55300-18), the International Iguana Foundation, Fauna and Flora International through the Caribbean Programme, and the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (182518984).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem DynamicsUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Biogeography and Global Change, Museo Nacional de Ciencias NaturalesSpanish National Research Council (CSIC)MadridSpain
  3. 3.WildDominiqueRoseauCommonwealth of Dominica
  4. 4.Forestry, Wildlife, and Parks DivisionRoseauCommonwealth of Dominica
  5. 5.Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and ResearchJohn G. Shedd AquariumChicagoUSA

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