Emperor penguins become first creatures to be counted from space
The first census of a entire species using satellite images reveals double the number of the birds, meaning the impact of climate change can be monitored far more accurately.
The new research, using very high resolution satellite images, has revealed almost double the number of Emperor penguins living in Antarctica - 595,000 birds - compared to the last survey in 1992
The work revealed seven previously unknown colonies and analysed 44 colonies in total. The study, conducted by scientists at the British Antarctic Survey and international colleagues, is published in the journal PloS ONE.
The science teams were able to differentiate between birds, ice, shadow and penguin guano (droppings) by using a digital technique called pan-sharpening. Scientists then used population counts on the ground and detailed aerial photography to calibrate the analysis of the satellite images.
Being able to assess the total number of birds from space is valuable because the penguins breed in remote and often inaccessible areas, with temperatures as low as -50°C, and so are very hard to study on the ground.