Researchers state what was once the world’s second largest colony of emperor penguins has now all, but disappeared, following fluctuations from sea ice conditions made their typical breeding ground unstable. A team of researchers from the British Antarctic Study released their findings from the Antarctic Science journal on Thursday. The team said that they studied very high-resolution satellite imagery to uncover the findings. Based on their research, satellite images showed that the colony of the penguin emperor at the Halley Bay of Antarctica has drastically decreased in the past 3 years on account of failures caused by changes in local environmental conditions.
For the last sixty years the sea ice conditions from the Halley Bay website have been reliable and steady, the team stated. But following a period of abnormally stormy weather, the sea ice broke up in October, well before any emperor chicks could have fledged. The team stated the conditions were replicated the following 2 years, leading to the departure of all the chicks in the site each season. The colony in Halley Bay colony has all, but disappeared, while the nearby Dawson Lambton colony has increased in size, indicating that a lot of the adult emperors have moved there, looking for better breeding grounds as ecological conditions have shifted, the researchers stated.
Peter Fretwell, the lead writer of the report and remote sensing expert in BAS, said the team was analyzing the population of penguins in the Halley Bay colony along with other nearby colonies for many years utilizing the high-resolution satellite imagery. These pictures have definitely shown the catastrophic breeding collapse at this site during the last 3 years, Fretwell said. Our technical satellite image analysis can detect people and penguin huddles, thus we are able to gauge the population based on the known density of the groups to give a reliable estimate of the colony size. Phil Trathan, a penguin expert with BAS who co-wrote the report, said it’s impossible to state whether the fluctuations in sea ice conditions in Halley Bay are especially linked to climate change, however, this kind of comprehensive failure to breed successfully is unmatched by this site. Even taking into consideration amounts of environmental uncertainty, printed models imply that emperor penguin numbers are set on drop radically, he said, adding that the penguins are likely to lose between 50% and 70% of their number before the end of the century as sea ice conditions vary as a consequence of climate change. The researchers said they plan to continue to examine the colony’s reaction to the changing conditions of ice at sea to assist other scientists to get vital details about how this iconic species could cope with future environmental change.