Population decline of chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica) on Deception Island, South Shetlands, Antarctica
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Population changes of top predators can provide key indications of environmental quality. In the Antarctic ecosystem, population dynamics of top predators like penguins may yield important information about how the environment is changing. From 1991–1992 to 2008–2009 censuses of the chinstrap penguin (Pygoscelis antarctica), breeding population of Vapour Col in Deception Island (South Shetlands Islands) were carried out. Censuses were conducted on 19 sub-colonies, mainly in December around the time of peak hatching. Nest counts were taken from photographs that were recorded from a standard location. Some censuses were also made in mid-January in 1999, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Our results reveal that the population has declined by 36 % when comparing data from 1991 with those from 2008. The strongest decline occurred since 2000. No temporal trends were detected in reproductive success. Declines of Chinstrap penguin populations constitute a general pattern in the South Shetlands, and it has been suggested to be related to climate change through effects of reduction in sea-ice extent during winter and a consequent decline in the abundance of krill.
KeywordsAntarctica Breeding success Climate change Chinstrap penguin Human impact Krill reduction Pygoscelis antarctica Population decline South Shetlands
We thank Juanto Fargallo, Josabel Belliure and other researchers and military personnel participating in these projects who took some of the pictures of the colony during the study period. We thank the Spanish Antarctic base “Gabriel de Castilla” and the Spanish Navy ships “Hesperides” and “Las Palmas” for their hospitality and transport. The Maritime Technology Unit (CSIC) provided logistic support. We thank F. Stephen Dobson and two anonymous referees for helpful suggestions that improve an early version of the manuscript. This study is a contribution to Pinguclim project.
Procedures used in this study comply with the current laws for working in Antarctica. Permission to work in the study area and for penguin handling was granted by the Spanish Polar Committee. This study has been supported by the projects ANT90-1079-E, ANT91-1264, ANT94-0036, ANT97-1906-E, ANT98-1443-E, CGL2004-01348 and CGL2007-60369 of Spanish Ministry responsible for Science during two decades.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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