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.
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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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Online Resource 1: Paulet Island (63°35′ S, 55°47′ W) on February 19, 2011 (0.5-m resolution Worldview-2). Red polygons indicate Adélie penguin breeding colonies as identified through manual interpretation. Satellite imagery provided by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and copyright (2011) by DigitalGlobe, Inc. (TIFF 15953 kb)
Online Resource 2: Satellite imagery provided by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and copyright (2011) by DigitalGlobe, Inc. () Adélie penguins (white patches) at Paulet Island as seen in satellite imagery (left; February 19, 2011) and from the ground (right; December 19, 2008). Yellow arrow in bare patch is added for orientation. (b) Adélie penguin colonies at Heroina Island on January 22, 2011. A representative but not exhaustive sample of colonies indicated by white arrows (TIFF 36334 kb)
Online Resource 3: Satellite imagery provided by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and copyright (2011) by DigitalGlobe, Inc. () Chinstrap penguins (white patches) at Heywood Island on January 11, 2011. A representative but not exhaustive sample of colonies is indicated by white arrows. Patches of snow are marked with a black ‘x’. (b) Chinstrap penguin colonies in the Tetrad Islands on December 3, 2010. Colonies marked by black arrows are representative but not necessarily exhaustive. While some patches of bare rock (marked by white ‘x’) are unambiguous, smaller areas are not clearly identifiable in the absence of additional imagery (either from a different point in the season or multispectral). Where visible, penguin tracks between neighboring colonies are an unambiguous hallmark of penguin colonies (blue inset). (TIFF 21950 kb)
Online Resource 4 Satellite imagery provided by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and copyright (2011) by DigitalGlobe, Inc. (a) Gentoo penguins (white patches) at Aitcho Island on January 11, 2011. Known colonies are marked by white arrows. Patches of snow are marked with a black ‘x’. (b) Gentoo penguin colonies at Skottsberg Point on December 3, 2010. One large gentoo and two very small gentoo colonies are marked with white arrows. (TIFF 21904 kb)
Online Resource 5: Chinstrap and Adélie penguins at Salamander Point, Bellingshausen Island (SSI) on January 13, 2011. Image provided by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Commercial Imagery Program and copyright (2011) by DigitalGlobe, Inc. Dashed lines highlight darker areas comprising Adélie-dominated portions of the colony. (b) Photograph of a portion of Salamander Point showing how Adélie-dominated areas of the colony (enclosed by dashed polygons) appears darker relative to the surrounding chinstrap colony due to heavier guano coverage. (TIFF 22664 kb)
Online Resource 7: A portion of southwestern Trinity Island with no breeding penguins on December 3, 2010. Shadows cast by patchy clouds are indicated with black arrows, and shadows cast by snow cornices indicated by white arrows. As both types of shadows can create areas superficially similar to guano staining, the spatial context must be carefully considered when interpreting imagery. Satellite imagery provided by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and copyright (2011) by DigitalGlobe, Inc. (TIFF 10174 kb)
Online Resource 8: Adélie penguins (white patches) at Hope Bay on February 5, 2011 as captured in 0.5-m panchromatic and 2-m multispectral (b) imagery. A representative but not exhaustive sample of colonies indicated by white arrows. Patchy snow (white box) looks superficially similar to penguin colonies in the panchromatic image but is clearly differentiated in the multispectral image. Satellite imagery provided by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and copyright (2011) by DigitalGlobe, Inc. (TIFF 17210 kb)
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Lynch, H.J., White, R., Black, A.D. et al. Detection, differentiation, and abundance estimation of penguin species by high-resolution satellite imagery. Polar Biol 35, 963–968 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-011-1138-3
- Remote sensing
- Adélie penguin
- Gentoo penguin
- Chinstrap penguin
- Macaroni penguin
- Zavodovski Island