Auk’s Top Cited, #2: First Global Census of Adélie Penguins

Pygoscelis penguins breed earlier in response to climate change
Map and aerial photography of Adélie Penguin colonies.

Our series highlighting our top cited papers of 2014 and 2015 is nearing its end! This week we’re looking at First global census of the Adélie Penguin by H.J. Lynch and M.A. LaRue, from the October 2014 issue of The Auk.

The authors combined surveys of satellite imagery with counts in the field to estimate the total global population of Adélie Penguins, which breed in colonies in Antarctica. By comparing their numbers for each site with previous data when available, they were also able to assess population trends. They reached an estimate of 3.79 million breeding pairs in 251 breeding populations, not including 7 colonies that they lacked data for. 17 sites they censused appeared to be new colonizations within the past few decades, while 8 previously known colonies appeared to have gone extinct.

While populations on the Antarctic Peninsula are declining, this study shows that those declines are more than made up for by increases in East Antarctica. The authors recommend expanding field surveys of sites where Adélie and Gentoo penguins, which are difficult to distinguish from satellite imagery, breed together, and future censuses of the 7 sites they were unable to reach.

Read the full paper at