Melting Sea Ice Sheets: Fading Adélie Penguin Populations

EarthzineOriginal, SGS 2017, St. George's School

The melting of ice sheets in Antarctica is a problem that has worsened over time. One of the most devastating consequences is the decline in the population of Adélie penguins in the Antarctic Peninsula.

At St. George’s School (Bogotá, Colombia), 77 senior science students examined biodiversity issues using Earth observation images and information. Working groups created posters and texts in both English and Spanish. This is one of the submissions selected for publication.

Members: Santiago Alba, Alejandro Cifuentes, Juan David Collazos, Nicolás Correal, Natalia Duarte, Paula Andrea Vargas


Throughout history there have been many global climatic variations such as the ice age. However, because of the global warming we are experiencing today, various species worldwide have been adversely affected by this change. The Adélie penguin is an ideal example.
Due to the recent rise in global temperatures, sea temperatures have been increasing annually. In this case, we are going to focus specifically on the area of the Western Antarctic Peninsula, where most Adélie penguin colonies reside. In this zone, the increase in temperatures has had serious repercussions on the species since there is a great interconnectivity between the species of the area.
Satellite images have shown that each year the temperature in the Western Antarctic Peninsula is higher. They also evidence that sea ice layers are constantly melting which is worrisome since many species become affected. The Adélie penguin has been forced to look for new nesting sites that are dry and rocky.
Penguins can be monitored by guano patches left by colonies. Depending on the spots, an approximate value for the number of individuals that live in each colony can be calculated. This makes the Adélie penguin, an indicator of the impact of climate change on the biodiversity of the West Antarctic Peninsula, as it is a species that can be traced and provides important scientific data.