, Volume 35, Issue 6, pp 963-968
Date: 09 Feb 2012

Detection, differentiation, and abundance estimation of penguin species by high-resolution satellite imagery

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Abstract

Due to its high spatial resolution, broad spatial coverage, and cost-effectiveness, commercial satellite imagery is rapidly becoming a key component of biological monitoring in the Antarctic. While considerable success in surveying emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) has been facilitated by their large size and the visual simplicity of their habitat, there has been considerably less progress in mapping colonies on the Antarctic Peninsula and associated sub-Antarctic islands where smaller penguin species breed on topographically complex terrain composed of mixed substrates. Here, we demonstrate that Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae), chinstrap penguin (P. antarcticus), gentoo penguin (P. papua), and macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus) colonies can be detected by high-resolution (2-m multispectral, 40–50-cm panchromatic) satellite imagery and that under ideal conditions, such imagery is capable of distinguishing among groups of species where they breed contiguously. To demonstrate the potential for satellite imagery to estimate penguin population abundance, we use satellite imagery of Paulet Island (63°35′S, 55°47′W) to estimate a site-wide population of 115,673 (99,222–127,203) breeding pairs of Adélie penguins.