Accordingly, the researchers’ findings show that the EOO defined by the IUCN for emperor penguins needs to be expanded to reflect the species’ actual distribution range. The current and planned marine protected areas (MPAs) are still too small, as they cover only 10 ± 5% of the estimated distribution range on average. In terms of how much time was spent in the protected areas, many young emperor penguins from the Atka Bay colony, located within the proposed MPA in the Weddell Sea (WSMPA, the largest MPA currently being considered for the Southern Ocean), left the MPA after just nine days (± 4 days) in January and spent only 10.6 ± 7.5% of their time in it. It was only in summer (January and December) that the juveniles spent an appreciable percentage of their time within the borders of the proposed WSMPA (48 ± 24% / 31 ± 13%). In February and from July to November, not one of the tagged penguins could be found there. “Our data clearly shows that strategic plans for protecting the emperor penguin and other long-lived, ecologically important species need to bear in mind the dynamic distribution ranges of all age groups. At this year’s meeting of the Antarctic Treaty System signatories in Berlin, various countries voiced their support for declaring the emperor penguin a specially protected species. Our data shows just how important this special protection could be,” concludes Prof Olaf Eisen, scientific chair of AWI’s Antarctic research infrastructures and a co-author of the current study.
Centre Scientifique de Monaco
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
Université de Strasbourg
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research
University of Bremen