Detection, differentiation, and abundance estimation of penguin species by high-resolution satellite imagery
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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.
KeywordsRemote sensing Adélie penguin Gentoo penguin Chinstrap penguin Macaroni penguin Zavodovski Island
H.J.L. and R.N. gratefully acknowledge assistance from the US National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs (Award No. NSF/OPP-0739515 and NSF/OPP-0739430) and the Polar Geospatial Center (Award No. ANT 1043681), as well as helpful comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript by Michelle LaRue and Paul Morin. Imagery provided through the NGA Commercial Imagery Program. Fieldwork on the South Sandwich Islands would not have been possible without the knowledge and skill of Jérôme Poncet and the crew of MV Golden Fleece. The participation of A.D.B. on this expedition was funded by the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and that of R.W. by Oceanites, Inc.
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