Population dynamics of three emperor penguin colonies in the Ross Sea (2019)
Type of ContentReports
Degree NamePostgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies
Emperor penguins were found to be breeding in the Ross Sea region in Antarctica in 1902 and since then there has been monitoring of the 7 Ross Sea colonies, but this has been quite inconsistent. This paper provides data on chick and adult counts from 2018 on three Ross Sea emperor penguin colonies; this is the first time since 2012 that these colonies have been visited and counted. We took aerial photos of three Ross Sea colonies; Cape Crozier, Beaufort Island and Franklin Island. Then from these images I counted all the chicks on a total of 10 images for the three colonies. I counted 1,365 chicks at Cape Crozier, 417 chicks at Beaufort Island and 2,372 chicks at Franklin Island. I then compared the chick counts to the concurrent adult counts at the same colonies, conducted regression analysis and made comparisons. We found that all three colonies exhibit very different population dynamics over time. While the adult counts are somewhat similar for the Cape Crozier and Beaufort Island colonies, the chick counts show no similarity across the three colonies. Cape Crozier is the colony that exhibits a strong trend in terms of the relationship between the number of chicks and adults each year, and this past 2018 season had the greatest yield of chicks ever recorded at this colony. We present in the findings of this paper that extrapolating patterns of population dynamics between colonies in the Ross Sea is not appropriate as there is no pattern or trend that is similar between the three colonies. Therefore, future research and monitoring of these colonies needs to be consistent in order to be able to detect changes at each of the individual colonies. With the threat of climate change looming, the habitat and ultimately the fate of the emperor penguin species is at risk. There are huge benefits in future monitoring; to determine both negative effects of climate change and positive effects of marine protected areas. There is the potential to use this species as an ecosystem sentinel to inform on the health of not only the Ross Sea region but potentially the Southern Ocean.
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