Our goal is to understand how climate-related changes affect predator populations in the Antarctic, using the Adélie penguin as a focal species due to its long history as a Southern Ocean ‘sentinel’ species and the number of long-term research programs monitoring its abundance, distribution, and breeding biology. Understanding the environmental factors that control predator population dynamics is critically important for projecting the state of populations under future climate change scenarios, and for designing better conservation strategies for the Antarctic ecosystem. For the first time, datasets from a network of observational sites for the Adélie penguin across the entire Antarctic will be combined and analyzed, with a focus on linkages among the ice environment, primary production, and the population responses of Adélie penguins.
The key question to be addressed in this project is how climate impacts the timing of periodic biological events (phenology) and how interannual variation in this periodic forcing influences the abundance of penguins in the Antarctic. The focus will be on the timing of ice algae and phytoplankton blooms because the high seasonality of sea ice and associated pulsed primary productivity are major drivers of the Antarctic food web. This study will also examine the responses of Adélie penguins to changes in sea ice dynamics and ice algae-phytoplankton phenology. The proposed approach is designed to accommodate the limits of measuring and modeling the intermediate trophic levels between phytoplankton and penguins (e.g., zooplankton and fish) at the pan-Antarctic scale, which are important but latent variables in the Southern Ocean food web. Through the use of remotely sensed and in situ data, along with state of the art statistical approaches and numerical modeling, this highly interdisciplinary study will advance our understanding of polar ecosystems and improve the projection of future climate change scenarios.
This project is funded by the NSF- Antarctic Sciences Division.
PIs: Rubao Ji, Stephanie Jenouvrier, Heather Lynch, Meibing Jin, Julienne Stroeve
Collaborators: Marika Holland, Laura Andrum, David G. Ainley, Grant Ballard, Christophe Barbraud, Karine Delord, Katie M. Dugger, William R. Fraser, Jefferson T. Hinke, Phil O’B. Lyver, Silvia Olmastroni, Susan G. Trivelpiece, Wayne Z. Trivelpiece
PHD Student: Casey Youngflesh
Post-docs: Yun Li and Dave Iles