Adèlie penguins are one species that seems to benefit from climate change and the resulting global warming taking place in the south polar regions. That’s the encouraging results from a heartening new study from the University of Minnesota published Wednesday in open access science journal PLOS One.
OK, I know what you’re thinking. Nobody from Minnesota can view global warming as a 100 percent terrible thing. But UM’s Polar Geospatial Center has collected evidence that the dapper Adèlie penguin will be what the team called a “climate change winner.”
Working with researchers from New Zealand, they have discovered that a colony of Adèlie penguins increased 71 percent since 1958, with a 20 percent increase in the years 1983-2010. Although the glaciers were not in retreat earlier than 1983, they’ve moved back over 540 meters (about one-third mile) in the years since.
The colony is both larger and more dense, because the warmer and less glaciated territory can support more birds. Furthermore, after 2005, youngsters no longer had to strike out as frequently to find new territories on nearby Ross Island, because they were able to establish their own places closer to home.
Unlike the iconic Emperor penguin that breeds in the icy cold of the Antarctic winter, the Adèlie penguin needs an ice-free area to breed. Some Emperor penguin colonies are actually in such remote territories that in early January, NASA reported that they had discovered a new colony of 9,000 from their Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica satellite.
The new penguin study made use of aerial photography dating back as far as 1958, as well as satellite images from 2005 and 2010, to get very accurate images of the expanding Adèlie penguin colony.
Check out this adult penguin surrounded by some fluffy babies from the recent baby boom:
And here’s an evocative photo of some of the Adèlie penguins in the shadow of a nearby glacier.
This birder can only say that the climate change winner Adèlie penguin looks like a beautiful bird in a gorgeous setting.
[Adèlie Penguins photos courtesy The University of Minnesota]