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Kooyman, GL, Ponganis PJ.  2017.  Rise and fall of Ross Sea emperor penguin colony populations: 2000 to 2012. Antarctic Science. 29:201-208.   10.1017/s0954102016000559   AbstractWebsite

There are seven emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) colonies distributed throughout the traditional boundaries of the Ross Sea from Cape Roget to Cape Colbeck. This coastline is c. 10% of the entire coast of Antarctica. From 2000 to 2012, there has been a nearly continuous record of population size of most, and sometimes all, of these colonies. Data were obtained by analysing aerial photographs. We found large annual variations in populations of individual colonies, and conclude that a trend from a single emperor penguin colony may not be a good environmental sentinel. There are at least four possibilities for census count fluctuations: i) this species is not bound to a nesting site like other penguins, and birds move within the colony and possibly to other colonies, ii) harsh environmental conditions cause a die-off of chicks in the colony or of adults elsewhere, iii) the adults skip a year of breeding if pre-breeding foraging is inadequate and iv) if sea ice conditions are unsatisfactory at autumn arrival of the adults, they skip breeding or go elsewhere. Such variability indicates that birds at all Ross Sea colonies should be counted annually if there is to be any possibility of understanding the causes of population changes.

Barber-Meyer, SM, Kooyman GL, Ponganis PJ.  2008.  Trends in western Ross Sea emperor penguin chick abundances and their relationships to climate. Antarctic Science. 20:3-11.   10.1017/s0954102007000673   AbstractWebsite

The emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is extremely dependent on the extent and stability of sea ice, which may make the species particularly susceptible to environmental change. In order to appraise the stability of the emperor penguin populations at six colonies in the western Ross Sea, we used linear regression analysis to evaluate chick abundance trends (1983-2005) and Pearson's r correlation to assess their relation to two local and two large-scale climate variables. We detected only one significant abundance trend; the Cape Roget colony increased from 1983 to 1996 (n = 6). Higher coefficients of variation in chick abundances at smaller colonies (Cape Crozier, Beaufort Island, Franklin Island) suggest that such colonies occupy marginal habitat, and are more susceptible to environmental change. We determined chick abundance to be most often correlated with local Ross Sea climate variables (sea ice extent and sea surface temperature), but not in consistent patterns across the colonies. We propose that chick abundance is most impacted by fine scale sea ice extent and local weather events, which are best evaluated by on-site assessments. We did not find sufficient evidence to reject the hypothesis that the overall emperor penguin population in the Ross Sea was stable during this period.

Barber-Meyer, SM, Kooyman GL, Ponganis PJ.  2007.  Estimating the relative abundance of emperor penguins at inaccessible colonies using satellite imagery. Polar Biology. 30:1565-1570.   10.1007/s00300-007-0317-8   AbstractWebsite

Emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) populations are useful environmental indicators due to the bird's extreme reliance on sea ice. We used remote sensing technology to estimate relative adult bird abundance at two inaccessible emperor penguin colonies in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. We performed supervised classification of 12 panchromatic satellite images of the seven known Ross Sea colonies. We used regression to predict adult bird counts at the inaccessible colonies by relating the number of pixels classified as "penguin" in the satellite images of the accessible colonies to corresponding known adult bird counts from aerial photographs or ground counts. While our analysis was hampered by excessive guano and shadows, we used satellite imagery to differentiate between relatively small (< 3,000 adult birds) and larger colonies (> 5,000 adult birds). Remote sensing technology is logistically less intense and less costly than aerial or ground censuses when the objective is to document penguin presence and/or large emperor penguin population changes (e.g., catastrophic changes). Improvements expected soon in the resolution of the satellite images should allow for more accurate abundance estimates.