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Antarctic Research Series



  • Ecology—Research—Antarctica—Antarctic Peninsula Region

Index Terms

  • 4207 Oceanography: General: Arctic and Antarctic oceanography
  • 9310 Information Related to Geographic Region: Antarctica
  • 4215 Oceanography: General: Climate and interannual variability
  • 4830 Oceanography: Biological and Chemical: Higher marine organisms



Factors controlling the distribution of seabirds: Winter-summer heterogeneity in the distribution of adélie penguin populations

W. R. Fraser and W. Z. Trivelpiece

Recent and historical data on the distribution of Adélie Penguins in the western Antarctic Peninsula region were analyzed to examine and detect patterns and causes of heterogeneity, and to relate these to long-term population changes. Adélie Penguins are one of the dominant components of the region's seabird community in terms of biomass, but not in numerical abundance. Approximately 308,300 pairs breed in the region, 80% of which are found in five colony clusters. These colony clusters are associated with deep canyons and basins that intersect the continental shelf. Adélie Penguins confine foraging activities to regions over these deep features that are within 20–50 km from colony clusters. Winter distributions in the Weddell and Bellingshausen Seas exhibit similar spatial heterogeneity and also occur in association with anomalies in bottom topography. Available daylight in winter restricts available foraging time, an analog to summer conditions when similar restrictions occur due to the need to provision chicks. It is hypothesized that summer and winter heterogeneity in the distribution of Adélie Penguins is maintained by behavioral mechanisms, but is causally linked to the juxtaposition of suitable bottom topography, nesting habitat, pack ice and available daylight, features associated with high prey availability. Changes in the spatial and temporal juxtaposition of some of these features over ecological and geological time due to climate change are likely to drive changes in the populations of Adélie Penguins. Different regions of the Antarctic appear to be out of phase with each other from the standpoint of climate change for reasons that are not yet clear. As a result, trends in Adélie Penguin populations are not synchronized, but instead reflect region-specific changes in climate.

Citation: Fraser, W. R., and W. Z. Trivelpiece (1996), Factors controlling the distribution of seabirds: Winter-summer heterogeneity in the distribution of adélie penguin populations, in Foundations for Ecological Research West of the Antarctic Peninsula, Antarct. Res. Ser., vol. 70, edited by E. E. Hofmann, R. M. Ross, and L. B. Quetin, pp. 257–272, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/AR070p0257.

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