According to a new study carried out utilizing satellite mapping technology, it was revealed that Antarctica has 20% More Emperor Penguin Colonies than expected.
This week, reporters revealed how they utilized pictures from the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite mission of the European Commission to find these birds.
11 new breeding colonies were discovered; three out of these 11, were initially identified but there was no confirmation. This takes the global total around Antarctica to 61 colonies.
To breed, emperor penguins require sea ice and they are usually found in remote and inaccessible areas with low temperatures (-50 degrees centigrade or -58 degrees Fahrenheit); this has made research in this areas very difficult. The scientists of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have been searching for new colonies, over the last decade.
This is an exciting discovery. The new satellite images of Antarctica’s coastline have enabled us to find these new colonies.”Dr. Peter Fretwell (lead author and geographer at BAS)
These are small colonies, but the overall population is increased by the numbers by about 10%. An emperor penguin is usually vulnerable whenever there’s a loss of sea ice – their preferable habitat for breeding – therefore, this data offers a platform to monitor how climate change affects the population of emperor penguins.
Taking current projections of changes in the environment into consideration, there may be a decline in this habitat, resulting in the loss of the penguin populations “under a business‐as‐usual scenario, with unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions creating warmer temperatures.”
Also, this study reveals some colonies found about 180 km offshore, found on sea ice, which has formed around icebergs that had grounded in shallow water. During the coldest months of the year i.e. from July to August, the breeding emperor penguins find their way to discrete locations, searching for protection from the cold and wind.
Featured image source: Christopher Michel, CC license