Aptenodytes forsteri


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Aptenodytes forsteri
Species Authority: Gray, 1844
Common Name(s):
English Emperor Penguin

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Ainley, D., Kooyman, G., Trathan, P. & Woehler, E.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Taylor, J.
This species has been uplisted to Near Threatened because it is projected to undergo a moderately rapid population decline over the next three generations owing to the effects of projected climate change. However, it should be noted that there is considerable uncertainty over future climatic changes and how these will impact the species.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Aptenodytes forsteri has a circumpolar range, restricted when breeding to the coast of Antarctica where major breeding colonies can be found, amongst other places in the Ross Sea sector, along the coast of Queen Maud Land and Enderby Land (del Hoyo et al. 1992). A survey of satellite images from 2009 found 46 colonies containing c.238,000 breeding pairs, suggesting a total of c.595,000 individuals (Fretwell et al. 2012). This species's breeding colonies are predicted to decline in the northern part of its range by 2025-2052, owing to projected changes in sea ice thickness and extent, as influenced by wind strength and persistence  (Ainley et al. 2010, D. Ainley in litt. 2010), although there are considerable uncertainties over this. Jenouvrier et al. (2009) predict a decline in the population viability of the Terre Adelie colony (c.66°S) with increasing frequency of warm events, which are defined by reduced sea ice extent.

Argentina; Chile; Falkland Islands (Malvinas); French Southern Territories; Heard Island and McDonald Islands; New Zealand; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: A survey of satellite images from 2009 has confirmed the presence of 46 colonies containing c.238,000 breeding pairs, suggesting a total of c.595,000 individuals (Fretwell et al. 2012).
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species is marine and pelagic, feeding mainly on fish in Antarctic waters (although krill and cephalopods can be important dietary components in places). It nests almost exclusively on fast ice near the coast or on the coast itself, sometimes up to as much as 200 km from the open sea in large colonies. Only three colonies are known to occur on land (Trathan et al. 2011). It has an annual breeding cycle, arriving at colonies between March and April, with egg-laying between May and June (del Hoyo et al. 1992).

Systems: Terrestrial; Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): It is thought to be threatened by the effects of projected climate change, primarily through future decreases in sea ice concentration and thickness, as affected by wind speed and persistence, as well as changes in other climatic variables such as precipitation (Ainley et al. 2010, D. Ainley in litt. 2010). Reductions in sea ice thickness are expected to impact the breeding population because of negative effects on the persistence of fast ice, which colonies rely upon through April-December (D. Ainley in litt. 2010). The decline of a colony on Emperor Island from c.150 pairs in c.1970 to fewer than 20 pairs by 1999 (at which time it occurred on land), with the apparent disappearance of the colony by 2009, has been linked to a decline in seasonal sea ice duration (Trathan et al. 2011). Disturbance is a threat in some areas, with problems to colonies caused by the proximity of scientific bases and aircraft movements (del Hoyo et al. 1992).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
The species is the subject of on-going international research. Human disturbance is strictly regulated.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct regular surveys to monitor population trends. Continue to improve on existing modelling work to better predict future population changes. Carry out further research into the species's ecology to improve understanding of how environmental changes will affect the population. Continue to carefully monitor the thickness, extent and persistence of Antarctic sea ice, and thus the availability of suitable breeding habitat. Continue international work to tackle the drivers of projected climate change.

Bibliography [top]

Ainley, D.; Russell, J.; Jenouvrier, S.; Woehler, E.; Lyver, P. O’B.; Fraser, W. R.; Kooyman, G. L. 2010. Antarctic penguin response to habitat change as Earth’s troposphere reaches 2°C above preindustrial levels. Ecological Monographs 80: 49-66.

Barbraud, C.; Weimerskirch, H. 2001. Emperor Penguins and climate change. Nature 411: 183-186.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Fretwell, P. T.; LaRue, M. A.; Morin, P.; Kooyman, G. L.; Wienecke, B.; Ratcliffe, N.; Fox, A. J.; Fleming, A. H.; Porter, C.; Trathan, P. N. 2012. An Emperor Penguin Population Estimate: The First Global, Synoptic Survey of a Species from Space. PLoS ONE 7(4).

IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2012.1). Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 19 June 2012).

Jenouvrier, S.; Barbraud, C.; Weimerskirch, H. 2005. Long-term contrasted responses to climate of two Antarctic seabird species. Ecology 86: 2889-2903.

Jenouvrier, S.; Caswell, H.; Barbraud, C.; Holland, M.; Stroeve, J.; Weimerskirch, H. 2009. Demographic models and IPCC climate projections predict the decline of an Emperor Penguin population. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106: 1844-1847.

Stammerjohn, S.; Massom, R; Rind, D; Martinson, D. 2012. Regions of rapid sea ice change: An inter-hemispheric seasonal comparison. Geophysical Research Lettes 39.

Trathan P. N.; Fretwell P. T.; Stonehouse, B. 2011. First Recorded Loss of an Emperor Penguin Colony in the Recent Period of Antarctic Regional Warming: Implications for Other Colonies. PLoS ONE 6(2).

Turner, J.; Comiso, J. C.; Marshall, G. J.; Lachlan-Cope, T. A.; Bracegirdle, T.; Maksym, T.; Meredith, M. P.; Zhaomin Wang; Orr, A. 2009. Non-annular atmospheric circulation change induced by stratospheric ozone depletion and its role in the recent increase of Antarctic sea ice extent. Geophysical Research Letters 36.

Weimerskirch, H.; Inchausti, P.; Guinet, C.; Barbraud, C. 2003. Trends in bird and seal populations as indicators of a system shift in the Southern Ocean. Antarctic Science 15: 249-256.

Zwally, H. J.; Comiso, J..C; Parkinson, C. L.; Cavalieri, D. J.; Gloersen, P. 2002. Variability of Antarctic sea ice 1979–1998. Journal of Geophysical Research 107.

Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Aptenodytes forsteri. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 03 September 2015.
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