The 16th season of Oceanites’ Antarctic Site Inventory project is presently underway onboard Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Explorer, as the Inventory continues its monitoring effort in the Antarctic Peninsula, including penguin and seabird nest counts and chick counts at the Peninsula’s most species-diverse, environmentally sensitive sites. Including work to date in the 2009/10 field season, the Inventory now has accomplished a total of more than 1,000 site visits at more than 130 different locations.
The Antarctic Site Inventory began fieldwork in 1994 and uses opportunistic ship visits to collect data and descriptive information necessary to detect possible environmental changes. In 2006, Oceanites and the Inventory began a collaboration with the Fagan Lab at the University of Maryland, which utilizes hierarchical Bayesian modeling and other cutting-edge statistical techniques to identify, analyze, and better understand penguin and seabird population changes. Detected changes may result from a variety of factors, including climate, sea ice extent, and krill and fish abundance and distribution.
In particular, the Inventory continues to document rapid changes in the relative populations of gentoo and Adélie penguins in the Antarctic Peninsula, where gentoo penguins are increasing and expanding their range southward, while Adélie penguins are declining significantly. Discerning how these species are changing in abundance and relative abundance, and more importantly, identifying the factors driving these long-term changes, are key steps toward an improved understanding of the Antarctic ecosystem and are essential for effective stewardship of Antarctica.