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Changing climate, not tourism, seems to be driving decline in chinstrap-penguin populations
Date:11/14/2012

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 d
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Contact: Peter West
pwest@nsf.gov
703-292-7530
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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