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Articles / Flora and Fauna

Calculation of the population of emperor penguins in Antarctica is an important part of figuring out how severe of an effect the global climate shift is having on the species. Unfortunately, it has been a challenging task because of the climate. Up until now, censuses relied on ground-based tallies and visual estimation from a plane, but those methods are costly, not very accurate and of course dangerous.

Using satellites over 450km above ground and an algorithm that is able to differentiate the pixels representing penguins from the pixels representing their surroundings, a multinational team of research performed the first census for an entire species. The satellite imagery showed a grand total of over half a million emperor penguins, which is roughly double what previous studies estimated. This population spreads over 46 colonies, a number which was previously believed to be 38. 

Even though the emperor penguin population is much bigger than we thought, the species is still in danger. Even though the hostile climate ensures minimal predation and there's never a lack of food because the sea life is as rich as ever, the penguins' icy habitat is very susceptible to the global temperature rise. Monitoring them allows us to estimate how much of an effect the climate change has on our environment.

By Denis Ivanov

Source: Scientific American
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