Antarctic Environments Portal

Emerging Issues

Climate change as an emerging threat to Emperor Penguins

EI Emps EN

The Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is uniquely adapted to breed in the Antarctic winter, mainly on stable sea-ice. Climate change may negatively impact the species by changing the extent, formation and persistence of sea-ice. However, many factors may influence Emperor Penguin population success, and different colonies in different areas can have opposing population changes. The current published evidence indicates that understanding of the influence of climate change on Emperor Penguin populations is not yet fully developed. At present, following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidance on descriptions of uncertainty, the available evidence can be considered limited to medium, but with high agreement. Thus, negative climate change-related impacts on the Emperor Penguin can be considered likely.  

Changes in penguin distribution over the Antarctic Peninsula and Scotia Arc

Adelie EN

Robust evidence highlights major shifts in the abundance and distribution of penguins (Adélie, chinstrap, gentoo, emperor, king, and macaroni) breeding on the Antarctic Peninsula and across the Scotia Arc in the FAO statistical SubAreas commonly used by CCAMLR (see Figure 1). In SubArea 48.1, Adélies and chinstraps have declined throughout most of the western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) to the north of Marguerite Bay. Adélies are stable or increasing in Marguerite Bay and to the south, and stable or increasing in the eastern Antarctic Peninsula. By contrast, gentoos on the WAP (48.1) and at the South Orkney Islands (48.2) are increasing and expanding their breeding range southwards; elsewhere, their populations are highly variable but not trending significantly. In SubArea 48.3, macaronis have experienced substantial declines while kings have increased. In SubArea 48.4, chinstraps and Adélies are stable. These findings highlight considerable spatial heterogeneity in species trends, and the importance of comparative work both to assess the drivers of population change and to predict and monitor future trends.