The distribution and expansion of the invasive seagrass Halophila stipulacea in Dominica, West Indies, with a preliminary report from St. Lucia.

Demian A. Willette, Loyola Marymount University


The seagrass Halophila stipulacea Forsskål, native to the Red Sea, is an invasive species in the Mediterranean that was recently observed offshore Grenada, in the Caribbean. Here, we document the presence of this seagrass in Dominica and St. Lucia, demonstrating it has spread across part of the eastern Caribbean. H. stipulacea in Dominica was present in seven locations along the west coast covering more than 22.9 ha of the benthos, at depths from 2 to 18 m. Populations were concentrated in or adjacent to bays frequented by recreational or commercial boats, likely vectors for the introduction. Morphological features varied from bed to bed, with depth being the predominant driving factor. H. stipulacea had a rapid mean lateral bed expansion rate of 0.5 cm d−1, with a maximum rate of >6 cm d−1. H. stipulacea patches often occurred exclusive of the otherwise dominant seagrasses of the Caribbean. The potential for the expansion of H. stipulacea, combined with its tolerance for a wide spectrum of environmental conditions, positions it as a potential threat to local and regional biodiversity.