Human Ecology of a Species Introduction: Interactions between Humans and Introduced Green Iguanas in a Puerto Rican Urban Estuary

By García-Quijano, Carlos G.; Carlo, Tomás A. et al. | Human Organization, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Human Ecology of a Species Introduction: Interactions between Humans and Introduced Green Iguanas in a Puerto Rican Urban Estuary

García-Quijano, Carlos G., Carlo, Tomás A., Arce-Nazario, Javier, Human Organization

This paper reports results of interdisciplinary research between anthropologists and wildlife ecologists about the interactions between people and introduced green iguanas (Iguana iguana) in the San Juan Bay Estuary in Puerto Rico. Non-indigenous, introduced species and their impact on invaded ecosystems, including humans, are a worldwide environmental concern. Humans are the dominant species in most world ecosystems, and, thus, studying an introduced species' interactions with people is of utmost importance to understand its impacts, make predictions, and inform environmental policy. Here, we detail some remarkable findings of our ongoing research in this topic, including (1) the spatial distribution of introduced green iguanas with respect to people's activities and land uses, (2) the intracultural variation in attitudes and values regarding introduced iguanas and other introduced species in the study region, (3) local people's knowledge about iguana diets in the estuary, and (4) the interactions between green iguanas and the tourism industry in Puerto Rico.

Key words: human ecology, species introductions, green iguanas, urban estuaries, Puerto Rico, Caribbean


Non-indigenous, introduced species and their impact on invaded ecosystems are a worldwide concern (Pfeiffer and Voeks 2008; Temple 1990; Vitousek et al. 1 996). By some accounts, introduced species pose one of the greatest threats to the global environment, similar in magnitude to industrial pollution, habitat destruction, and global warming (Pimentel et al. 2000; Vitousek et al. 1996). Globalization and the increasing connectivity among human populations and their economies have accelerated the rates of species introductions (Lodge et al. 2006). Still, concern for introduced species is not new, and spirited debates about whether introduced plants and animals are good or bad have been raging for over a century in both sides of the Atlantic Ocean (Coates 2007; Elton 1958; Howard 1897).

When a species of organism is introduced to a new location, it becomes subject to complex interactions with the biotte and abiotic components of the local ecosystem, including the humans who live in the area. The nature of these interactions will determine whether the species will become established and whether it will have a minor or major impact in the structure of the host ecosystem. Interactions with humans are especially important because these will determine whether the new species will be classified as beneficial, harmless, a nuisance, or hazardous, and, thus, what course of action and policy will be taken in respect to the introduced species. Most ecosystems where novel species are introduced are also heavily impacted by anthropogenic activities, thus making it difficult to explain invasions purely on biological terms apart from human activities, perceptions, and policies (Sax et al. 2007).

This article reports results of ongoing interdisciplinary research about social-ecological changes resulting from the introduction of a large introduced arboreal lizard - the green iguana (Iguana iguana) - to the coastal forests of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. Specifically, in this article, we focus on human perceptions and economic interactions resulting from this species introduction. Green iguanas have become established in Puerto Rico's coastal and riparian forests since having been introduced to the island by pet enthusiasts beginning as early as the 1970s. As evidenced by extensive local press coverage of the green iguana, this species, along with the small Indian mongoose (Herpestes javanicus), the Patas monkey (Eiythrocebus patas), the rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta), and the spectacled cayman (Caiman crocodilus), has become one the most discussed additions to Puerto Rico's vertebrate fauna.

Species introductions and their impacts in populated coastal areas are multi-dimensional phenomena that transcend traditional scientific discipline boundaries.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Human Ecology of a Species Introduction: Interactions between Humans and Introduced Green Iguanas in a Puerto Rican Urban Estuary


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?