Satellite images reveal twice as many Emperor penguins as were known to exist13/04/2012 16:12:12 Scientists count penguins from space
Very High Resolution imagery
595,000 Emperor penguins
On the ice, Emperor penguins with their black and white plumage stand out against the snow and colonies are clearly visible on satellite imagery. This allowed the team to analyse 44 Emperor penguin colonies around the coast of Antarctica, with seven previously unknown.
"The methods we used are an enormous step forward in Antarctic ecology because we can conduct research safely and efficiently with little environmental impact, and determine estimates of an entire penguin population, said co-author Michelle LaRue from the University of Minnesota and funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation. "The implications of this study are far-reaching: we now have a cost-effective way to apply our methods to other poorly-understood species in the Antarctic, to strengthen on-going field research, and to provide accurate information for international conservation efforts."
BAS biologist Dr Phil Trathan, and co-author, noted, "Current research suggests that Emperor penguin colonies will be seriously affected by climate change. An accurate continent-wide census that can be easily repeated on a regular basis will help us monitor more accurately the impacts of future change on this iconic species."
Loss of sea ice
Dr Trathan continued, "Whilst current research leads us to expect important declines in the number of Emperor penguins over the next century, the effects of warming around Antarctica are regional and uneven. In the future we anticipate that the more southerly colonies should remain, making these important sites for further research and protection."
This research is a collaboration between British Antarctic Survey, University of Minnesota/National Science Foundation, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Australian Antarctic Division.