Emperor penguins in Antarctica count now doubles, satellite image counting study says

By on Apr 14, 2012 in Animals, Science, World Comments

Emperor penguins in Antarctica are now reportedly counted as double or twice as previously being thought, with scientists recently used a satellite mapping technology to count the iconic bird.

According to a press release at Antarctica.ac.uk on Friday, April 13, 2012, scientists from UK, US and Australia used Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite imagery technique in identifying the current number of emperor penguins in Antarctica.

As noted in the report, the study, which is also published in the journal PLoS ONE this week, scientists used a technique known as pan-sharpening to enlarge the resolution of the satellite imagery, where birds, ice, shadow and penguin poo (guano) can be distinguished from each other.

“We are delighted to be able to locate and identify such a large number of emperor penguins.” Lead author and geographer Peter Fretwell at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) was quoted in the report, with the result being considered as an important benchmark in monitoring the effect of environmental change to emperor penguins‘ population.

“We counted 595,000 birds, which is almost double the previous estimates of 270,000 – 350,000 birds. This is the first comprehensive census of a species taken from space.” Fretwell added, with his team using ground counts and aerial photography to calibrate the analysis.

“Current research suggests that emperor penguin colonies will be seriously affected by climate change. An accurate continent-wide census that can be easily repeated on a regular basis will help us monitor more accurately the impacts of future change on this iconic species.” BAS biologist and co-author Dr Phil Trathan reportedly said.

“In the future we anticipate that the more southerly colonies should remain, making these important sites for further research and protection.” Trathan added, with the project funded by UK‘s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the U.S. National Science Foundation, among others.

Map showing the locations of Emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica (Click Image To Enlarge)
Image Credit: British Antarctic Survey

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