First-Ever “State Of Antarctic Penguins 2017” Report Releases on World Penguin Day and Reveals Dramatic Declines in Penguin Populations – Climate Change Implications

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Today Oceanites released the inaugural “State Of Antarctic Penguins 2017” (SOAP) report for World Penguin Day. The findings indicate at least two species of Antarctic penguin have declined significantly where vast warming has occurred on the Antarctic Peninsula.

State of Antarctic Penguins - 2017 - Oceanites

SOAP Report Cover

These iconic birds are canaries in the coal mine. They provide critical insights into the dramatic changes taking place in the Antarctic. What’s happening to penguin populations can have important implications for all of us.

The inaugural “State Of Antarctic Penguins 2017” (SOAP) report was released today for World Penguin Day, and the findings indicate at least two species of Antarctic penguin, Adélie and chinstrap, have declined significantly where vast warming has occurred on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Oceanites, a leading international science-based NGO studying penguins and other Antarctic seabirds and analyzing impacts on these species, reveals these findings and identifies other important trends about the keystone Antarctic penguin species—Adélie, chinstrap, emperor, and gentoo—noting future concerns about these populations.

The groundbreaking report summarizes for the first time in more than two decades the best available, up-to-date Antarctic penguin population data--aggregating data from 660 or more sites across the entire Antarctic continent and drawing on current scientific data, including 3,176 records from 101 sources of on-the-ground colony counts and satellite photo analyses.

Downloadable “SOAP 2017” report and press assets:

A full copy of the “State Of Antarctic Penguins 2017” report is available online for free at the Oceanites website: https://oceanites.org/soap/. A PDF copy of the report, along with photographs, maps, graphics, and videos available for use in connection with today’s announcement, are available for download here.

The results of the first-of-its-kind report are both significant and alarming, according to Oceanites founder and president Ron Naveen, who presented the findings with key collaborative research partner Heather Lynch at a Press Conference in New York City on World Penguin Day, held at Cinema Village from 3:00-5:00 pm EDT.

“In one generation, I have personally witnessed the precipitous decline of once abundant Adélie and chinstrap penguin populations,” said Ron Naveen. “These iconic birds are canaries in the coal mine. They provide critical insights into the dramatic changes taking place in the Antarctic. What’s happening to penguin populations can have important implications for all of us.”

“We can now use advanced satellite technology and data analyses to better understand how these penguin populations are changing,” said associate professor Heather Lynch, who directs The Lynch Lab for Quantitative Ecology at Stony Brook University, which provides critical scientific expertise for the report. “By integrating expert biological field surveys, satellite imagery analyses, and citizen science, we can further enhance our ability to understand the changes taking place in an incredibly important world we are just learning about.”

With NASA, Dr. Lynch and her lab developed for Oceanites the Mapping Application for Penguin Populations and Projected Dynamics (MAPPPD), a unique open-ended scientific support tool intended to provide “one-stop shopping” for scientists studying penguin populations in the Antarctic.

The SOAP report establishes new baselines to monitor these penguin populations in the future, utilizing Oceanites’ new MAPPPD tool, and incorporates advances in satellite imagery analytical techniques. The report presents findings both continent-wide and per key Antarctic fishing areas designated by Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

Oceanites, through MAPPPD, now has available more on-the-ground censuses than ever before and, importantly, the rapidly developing satellite photo analytical techniques have greatly increased our knowledge and revealed even more colonies. The “State Of Antarctic Penguins 2017” report carefully sets forth numbers about Antarctic penguin populations as they now stand, based mostly on what is in Oceanites’ MAPPPD database. The new satellite analyses are providing new baselines and MAPPPD will have peer-reviewed predictive models available for Oceanites to describe more particularly what the trends will be for the SOAP 2018 report and beyond.

Key findings outlined in “State of Antarctic Penguins 2017” report:

  • Over the past 60+ years in the vastly warmed Antarctic Peninsula, gentoo populations have increased significantly; Adélie penguin populations have, in general, declined significantly; and chinstrap penguin populations have declined—at some locations significantly.
  • By contrast, in East Antarctica and the Ross Sea, regions that have not experienced a warming trend, Adélie penguin populations appear to be increasing.
  • The SOAP 2017 report notes various concerns, all related to climate, potentially affecting these penguin populations--most importantly, perhaps, ice sheet collapse both in West and East Antarctica.

Key implications combining “SOAP 2017” report findings with other realities

  • Clearly, in the vastly warmed Antarctic Peninsula, there are “winners” (rising numbers of gentoos) and “losers” (decreasing numbers of Adélies and chinstraps), foreboding concerns on whether humans will be able to adapt to warming trends.
  • Limiting warming to no more than 2˚C. has become the de facto target for global climate policy; yet the Antarctic Peninsula already has warmed by more than that over the last 60 years — by 3˚C. / 5˚F. year-round and by 5˚C. / 9˚F. in the austral winter.
  • Ongoing studies are underway to ascertain whether penguins can maintain “the four vitals” necessary for adaptation and survival: food, habitat, health (disease-free environment), and reproduction (future generations).
  • Two species are in decline in the Antarctic Peninsula and another is adapting. “Food” might be an explanation; all the penguins can eat both krill and fish, but gentoos, at this point in time, appear to have adapted better to reduced krill availability by eating more fish.

Funding to assist in the design, production, and dissemination of “State Of Antarctic Penguins 2017” report has graciously been provided by: The Curtis & Edith Munson Foundation, The Elissa and Herbert Epstein Foundation, and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

For more information on penguins, Antarctica, climate change or the data and research of the Antarctic Site Inventory, please visit the Oceanites website (http://www.oceanites.org). To interact on social media, go to Facebook.com/oceanites, connect on Twitter @Oceanites, or follow the conversation using #StandWithPenguins.

Ron Naveen and the team of Oceanites' biologists are the subject of a new documentary, "The Penguin Counters," which follows the group on its vigorous scientific quest to monitor and map penguin colonies in the frozen Antarctic. Directed and produced by Peter Getzels and Harriet Gordon, the award-winning film is providing video clips for media use in conjunction with the SOAP 2017 report announcement to coincide with the theatrical release of the film in New York City by First Run Features for World Penguin Day, and there will be a special screening with filmmakers following the press conference. To learn more information about "The Penguin Counters," visit http://www.penguincountersmovie.com.

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About Oceanites
Oceanites has been the leading NGO research organization for over 23 years studying penguins and other Antarctic seabirds and analyzing the impacts of climate change. Oceanites and the Antarctic Site Inventory are the only non-governmental science projects working in Antarctica and the only projects monitoring and analyzing change across the vastly warming Antarctic Peninsula and effects on penguins, wildlife, land, ice, and surrounding Southern Ocean. Oceanites is an invited expert group invited to meetings of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and regularly contributes papers to Antarctic Treaty Commission Meetings. Oceanites founder Ron Naveen is a “reformed” lawyer turned researcher and frequent author who has been to the Antarctic for 31 of the last 34 years, working with key international governmental, scientific and private sector organizations. Oceanites is the subject of the award-winning documentary, The Penguin Counters, released in New York City in April 2017 to coincide with the first “State Of Antarctic Penguins 2017” report and World Penguin Day. For more information, visit http://www.oceanites.org.

Media Contacts:
Eileen Campion, Roslan & Campion PR / 212.966.4600 (x.102) / Eileen(at)rc-pr.com
Eddie Ward, Roslan & Campion PR / 212.966.4600 (x.104) / Eddie(at)rc-pr.com

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