Penguins on Parade: Conflict in South Georgia – A Slideshow

The Sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia is home to some of the world’s largest breeding aggregations of penguins. Long-term monitoring studies reveal that the local population trends are complex. Some species and colonies have rapidly declined, but others have increased or remained stable. For example, the local population of macaroni penguins rapidly declined between the 1970s and early 2000s. During the same period of time, the local king penguin population increased. Within each of these species, individual colonies changed at different rates and a small number changed in opposite directions. Thus, it appears that the penguin species and colonies of South Georgia have responded differently to climate change and anthropogenic pressures such as fisheries, and historic sealing and whaling activities that changed the community structure. Unravelling these processes is considered an important challenge and has been the focus of extensive research [1][2][3]. Recent work [4] on the macaroni penguin indicated that their survival rates are controlled by trophic levels both above and below them, highlighting the need to consider multiple drivers simultaneously. The population of penguins on South Georgia currently represents around 15% of the global macaroni penguin population, 26% of the global gentoo penguin population, 28% of the global king penguin population, and less than 1% of the global chinstrap penguin population.


Cat Horswill
British Trust for Ornithology

Mick Mackey
Freelance photographer


[1] Croxall, J.P., Trathan, P.N. & Murphy, E.J. (2002) Environmental Change and Antarctic Seabird Populations. Science, 297, 1510–1514.
[2] Forcada, J. & Trathan, P.N. (2009) Penguin responses to climate change in the Southern Ocean. Global Change Biology, 15, 1618–1630.
[3] Trathan, P.N., Ratcliffe, N. & Masden, E.A. (2012) Ecological drivers of change at South Georgia: the krill surplus, or climate variability. Ecography, 35, 983–993.
[4] Horswill, C., J. Matthiopoulos, J. A. Green, M. P. Meredith, J. Forcada, H. Peat, M. Preston, P. N. Trathan & N. Ratcliffe. (2014) Survival in macaroni penguins and the relative importance of different drivers; individual traits, predation pressure and environmental variability. Journal of Animal Ecology, 83, 1057-1067.

2 thoughts on “Penguins on Parade: Conflict in South Georgia – A Slideshow

  1. Pingback: A Look Back At 2015 … And A Little Peak Forward | Animal Ecology In Focus

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