Penguins benefit from climate change
The warm temperatures have freed up more land, which means the Adélie penguin has more room to breed. Researchers found the population of Beaufort Island had increased to 64,000 pairs in 2010, that’s an 84% increase compared to 1983.
Image: Image: Christian Wilkinson/Shutterstock

Warming temperatures from climate change may threaten many polar species, but it seems that Adélie penguins on Beaufort Island in the Ross Sea are reaping the benefits of increased temperatures.

A new study from US and New Zealand researchers shows that the retreat of glaciers on the island has freed up more land and breeding space for penguin colonies on the island.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, used aerial photography — dating back as far as 1958 — and satellite data to measure the changes in the colony’s habitat and population size on the island, 3500km south of New Zealand.

Researchers found that between 1958 and 2010 the available habitat on the island had increased by 71 percent, due to retreating snow and ice fields. The population on the island had increased from roughly 35,000 breeding pairs in 1983 to 64,000 in 2010 – an increase of 84 percent.

As the authors note in the article, “Not only did the glacier field to the north of the main colony retreat by hundreds of meters allowing for colony expansion, but the snow patches within the colony decreased and eventually vanished. Both of these small-scale (snow patches) and large-scale (glacial retreat) factors driven, at least in part, by increasing temperatures played a role in the increase of the Adélie penguin nesting habitat and colony size.”

Editor's Note: Original news release can be found here.