Navigation Links
Changing climate, not tourism, seems to be driving decline in chinstrap-penguin populations

The breeding population of chinstrap penguins has declined significantly as temperatures have rapidly warmed on the Antarctic Peninsula, according to researchers funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The study indicates that changing climatic conditions, rather than the impact of tourism, have had the greatest effect on the chinstrap population.

Ron Naveen, founder of a nonprofit science and conservation organization, Oceanites, Inc., of Chevy Chase, Md., documented the decline in a paper published in the journal Polar Biology. Naveen and coauthor Heather Lynch, of Stony Brook University, are researchers with the Antarctic Site Inventory (ASI).

The paper's findings are based on an analysis of data collected during fieldwork conducted in December 2011 at Deception Island, one of Antarctica's busiest tourist locations.

"We now know that two of the three predominant penguin species in the peninsula--chinstrap and Adlie--are declining significantly in a region where, in the last 60 years, it's warmed by 3 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) annually and by 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) in winter," said Naveen. "By contrast, Gentoo penguins are expanding both in numbers and in range. These divergent responses are an ongoing focus of our Inventory work effort."

The ASI has been collecting and analyzing Antarctic Peninsula-wide penguin population data since 1994, and these new findings have important implications both for the advancement of Antarctic science and the management of Antarctica by the Antarctic Treaty nations. The United States is a signatory to the Treaty.

The Inventory is supported in part by NSF's Office of Polar Programs and also by public contributions. The project's fieldwork at Deception Island was assisted by a grant from The Tinker Foundation.

Through Polar Programs, NSF carries out its presidential mandate to manage the U.S. Antarctic Program, which coordinates all U.S. research on the southernmost continent and in the Southern Ocean.

ASI is the only science project tracking penguin population changes throughout the entire Antarctic Peninsula region.

"Our Deception Island work, using the yacht Pelagic as our base, occurred over 12 days and in the harshest of conditions--persistent clouds, precipitation and high winds, the latter sometimes reaching gale force and requiring a lot of patience waiting out the blows. But, in the end, we achieved the first-ever, one-season survey of all chinstraps breeding on the island," Naveen said.

There has been speculation that tourism may have a negative impact on breeding chinstrap penguins--especially at Deception Island's largest chinstrap colony, known as Baily Head.

Naveen oversaw the Deception Island census effort. Lynch, the Inventory's chief scientist, undertook subsequent analyses.

The results and analyses, according to Lynch, shed new light on the massive changes occurring in this region.

"Our team found 79,849 breeding pairs of chinstrap penguins at Deception, including 50,408 breeding pairs at Baily Head. Combined with a simulation designed to capture uncertainty in an earlier population estimate, there is strong evidence to suggest a significant decline, greater than 50 percent, in the abundance of chinstraps breeding at Baily Head since 1986-87.

"The decline of chinstrap penguins at Baily Head is consistent with declines in this species throughout the region, including at sites that receive little or no tourism; further, as a consequence of regional environmental changes that currently represent the dominant influence on penguin dynamics, we cannot ascribe any direct link in this study between chinstrap declines and tourism."

The Baily Head analysis was abetted by Lynch's analyses of high-resolution satellite imagery. Images for the 2002-03 and the 2009-10 seasons suggest a 39-percent decline during that seven-year period, providing independent confirmation of this population decline.

Through support from NSF and a cooperative effort with the University of Minnesota's Polar Geospatial Center, the ASI continues to demonstrate the use of satellite imagery to analyze and describe environmental change in sensitive habitats.

Adds Lynch, "While there has been considerable focus in the policy and management community about the potential impact of tourism on these penguin populations, we cannot forget the overwhelming evidence that climate is responsible for the dramatic changes that we are seeing on the peninsula. If tourism is having a negative impact on these populations, it's too small an effect to be detected against the background of climate change."


Contact: Peter West
National Science Foundation

Related biology news :

1. Costs for changing pollution criteria in Florida waters likely to exceed EPA estimates
2. Beating famine: Sustainable food security through land regeneration in a changing climate
3. Athletic frogs have faster-changing genomes
4. 50 years of bird poop links DDT with changing bird menus
5. University of Minnesota startup offers game-changing energy solutions that reduce CO2 emissions
6. Nitrogen pollution changing Rocky Mountain National Park vegetation, says CU-Boulder-led study
7. Deadly liver cancer may be triggered by cells changing identity, UCSF study shows
8. Back to the future: A new science for a changing planet
9. Satellite images tell tales of changing biodiversity
10. Did the changing climate shrink Europes ancient hippos?
11. Pacific islands may become refuge for corals in a warming climate, study finds
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Changing climate, not tourism, seems to be driving decline in chinstrap-penguin populations
(Date:4/11/2017)... BROOKLYN, N.Y. , April 11, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ ... identical fingerprints, but researchers at the New York ... University College of Engineering have found that partial ... fingerprint-based security systems used in mobile phones and ... previously thought. The vulnerability lies in ...
(Date:4/5/2017)... , April 5, 2017 Today HYPR ... that the server component of the HYPR platform is ... providing the end-to-end security architecture that empowers biometric authentication ... HYPR has already secured over 15 million users across ... manufacturers of connected home product suites and physical access ...
(Date:3/30/2017)... March 30, 2017  On April 6-7, 2017, ... Genome hackathon at Microsoft,s headquarters in ... will focus on developing health and wellness apps that ... Hack the Genome is the first hackathon for ... world,s largest companies in the genomics, tech and health ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... 12, 2017 , ... DuPont Pioneer and recently formed CasZyme, ... into a multiyear collaboration to identify and characterize novel CRISPR-Cas nucleases. The goal ... editing across all applications. , Under the terms of the agreement, Pioneer will ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... ... the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries to improve patient outcomes and quality of life, ... in analytical testing are being attributed to new regulatory requirements for all new ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... ... its endogenous context, enabling overexpression experiments and avoiding the use of exogenous expression ... guides is transformative for performing systematic gain-of-function studies. , This complement to ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... ... it will be hosting a Webinar titled, “Pathology is going digital. Is your ... on digital pathology adoption best practices and how Proscia improves lab economics and ...
Breaking Biology Technology: