Satellite images spot 11 new penguin colonies in Antarctica but global warming could soon wipe them out
Satellite imagesfrom outer space have spotted 11 new penguincolonies on the isolated continent of Antarctica.
- With these new penguin colonies, there are an estimated 20% more emperor penguins now.
- However, these colonies are located on margins of
emperor penguinhabitats and are likely to be wiped out by climate changeas the planet gets warmer.
“Whilst this is good news, the colonies are small and so only take the overall population count up by 5-10% to just over half a million penguins,” said Peter Fretwell, the lead author of the study published in Remote Sensing Ecology and Conservation.
Emperor penguins — the benchmark of climate change
Emperor penguins serve an important gauge of the impact of climate change on the planet. Their favourite breeding habitat is sea ice and that’s one of the first things to melt as Earth gets warmer.
Most of the new colonies that have been spotted using the European Commission’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite are located at the margins of the emperor penguins’ breeding range. This heightens the risk of losing them to climate change and rising temperatures.
"Whilst it's good news that we've found these new colonies, the breeding sites are all in locations where recent model projections suggest emperors will decline,” said Phil Trathan, Head of Conservation Biology at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) said in a statement.
A couple of colonies were also located offshore on sea ice that has developed around icebergs grounded in shallow waters. Not normally known to venture this far out, the discovery of penguins living almost 180 kilometres offshore was not expected.