Satellite Mapping Shows Emperor Penguin Populations Almost Double of Previous Estimates
16.04.2012 - Flora & Fauna, Antarctic
Using satellite imagery, an international team of scientists have shown that populations of emperor penguins in Antarctica have been severely underestimated. The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, estimates that the population stands at 595,000 penguins –almost double previous estimates of 270,000 – 350,000.
Using Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite images, the team was able to estimate the number of penguins at 44 different colonies around the coasts of Antarctica. Seven of the colonies surveyed were previously undiscovered.
With their black bodies clearly visible against the ice and snow, penguins are clearly visible in satellite images. Using a method known as pan-sharpening, the team was able to differentiate between birds, ice, shadow and guano (penguin feces). The researchers also conducted a number ground surveys to validate the analysis from the satellite data.
Carried out by researchers from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the University of Minnesota, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), the study shows that it is possible to use cost-effective satellite observation methods to provide accurate information to monitor penguin populations. Monitoring populations of emperor penuings will make it possible to observe how environmental change will impact them.