Even though annual sea ice levels in the Arctic have fallen in recent years, seasonal sea ice has reached record levels around the mainland of Antarctica. Which is good news for the Adélie population of penguins (on the rise). As the WSJ reports here: “Wildlife biologists pay close attention to Adélie penguins because their well-being is tied to annual sea ice conditions and temperature trends.”
For the first time, researchers have counted all the world’s Adélie penguins—a sprightly seabird considered a bellwether of climate change—and discovered that millions of them are thriving in and around Antarctica.
Rather than declining as feared due to warming temperatures that altered their habitats in some areas, the Adélie population generally is on the rise, the scientists said Thursday.
“What we found surprised everyone,” said ecologist Heather Lynch at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y., who led the penguin census. “We found a 53% increase in abundance globally.”
Counting the birds by satellite, Dr. Lynch and imaging specialist Michelle LaRue at the University of Minnesota found that the Adélie penguin population now numbers 3.79 million breeding pairs—about 1.1 million more pairs than 20 years ago. In all, they identified 251 penguin colonies and surveyed 41 of them for the first time, including 17 apparently new colonies.