Discovery of new colonies by Sentinel2 reveals good and bad news for emperor

The distribution of emperor penguins is circumpolar, with 54 colony locations currently reported of which 50 are currently extant as of 2019. Here we report on eight newly discovered colonies and confirm the rediscovery of three breeding sites, only previously reported in the era before Very High Resolution satellite imagery was available, making a total of 61 breeding locations. This represents an increase of ~20% in the number of breeding sites, but, as most of the colonies appear to be small, they may only increase the total population by around 5–10%. The discoveries have been facilitated by the use of Sentinel2 satellite imagery, which has a higher resolution and more efficient search mechanism than the Landsat data previously used to search for colonies. The small size of these new colonies indicates that considerations of reproductive output in relation to metabolic rate during huddling is likely to be of interest. Some of the colonies exist in offshore habitats, something not previously reported for emperor penguins. Comparison with recent modelling results show that the geographic locations of all the newly found colonies are in areas likely to be highly vulnerable under business‐as‐usual greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, suggesting that population decreases for the species will be greater than previously thought.


Publication status:
Published Online
Authors: Fretwell, Peter ORCIDORCID record for Peter Fretwell, Trathan, Phil

On this site: Phil Trathan, Peter Fretwell
1 January, 2021
Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation
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