, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 493-503
Date: 25 Sep 2009

Population trends and reproductive success at a frequently visited penguin colony on the western Antarctic Peninsula

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Abstract

Petermann Island (65°10′S, 64°10′W), one of the Antarctic Peninsula’s most frequently visited locations, is at the epicenter of a rapid shift in which an Adélie penguin dominated fauna is becoming gentoo penguin dominated. Over the course of five seasons, the breeding productivity of Adélie and gentoo penguins breeding at Petermann Island were monitored to identify drivers of this rapid community change. The impact of tourist visitation on breeding success was also investigated. Consistent with larger trends in this region, the Adélie penguin population decreased by 29% and the gentoo penguin population increased by 27% between the 2003/2004 and 2007/2008 seasons. Reproductive success among Adélie penguins ranged from 1.09 to 1.32 crèched chicks/nest, which was higher than or comparable to other sites and is an unlikely explanation for the precipitous decline of Adélie penguins at Petermann Island. Whereas gentoo penguin reproductive success was lowest in colonies frequently visited by tourists, Adélie penguin colonies frequently visited by tourists had higher reproductive success than those visited only occasionally. These results are placed in the context of other studies on reproductive success and the impact of tourist visitation on breeding colonies of Adélie and gentoo penguins.