Environmental monitoring and reporting is a fundamental part of the environmental management framework provided by the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty and the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). Monitoring activities provide data which can be used to inform Antarctic decision makers about the state of the environment and management which may be necessary to protect it.
The Protocol requires that each Party consider monitoring of “key environmental parameters and ecosystem components” in planning of Antarctic activities, so that any adverse effects can be identified and activities modified as necessary. The Committee for Environmental Protection is charged with advising the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings with advice on the state of the Antarctic environment and the need for environmental monitoring. The CCAMLR Ecosystem Monitoring Programme (CEMP) has been running since 1985.
Antarctica New Zealand is continuing to develop a monitoring programme aimed at identifying and tracking the impacts of its own activities, and is involved with both regional level and Antarctic wide state of the environment reporting initiatives. New Zealand researchers contribute Adélie penguin population monitoring data to CEMP. Antarctic New Zealand published Ross Sea Region 2001: A State of the Environment Report for the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica.
Landcare Research carries out annual population censuses of the Ross Island Adélie penguin colonies (Cape Bird, Cape Crozier and Cape Royds) using aerial photography. A colony at Beaufort Island is monitored by US collaborators, while Franklin Island and Victoria Land Coast colonies (Franklin Island, Inexpressible Island, Terra Nova Bay, Wood Bay, Coulman Island, Cape Halett, Foyn Island and Downshire Cliffs) are photographed by Landcare every three to five years. The photography is combined with field work at key sites to answer questions about distribution and abundance of the penguins and their breeding and feeding behaviour and success.
The research is increasing understanding of the natural influences on penguin colonies, such as competition for food, limitations in nesting space and changing climatic factors (especially sea ice). As these factors become better known, more can be learned about the effects past and present human activities (such as whaling, fishing and land based operations in colonies) may have.
The Adélie penguin is used as an indicator species by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), to check whether the species Adélies feed on are being over fished. Adélie penguins are monitored at a number of sites, but the Ross Sea data set is particularly important because of its long time span. The present aerial photography has programme has been carried out for over 20 years, while previous population estimates at Cape Royds and Cape Hallett date back to 1959. Follow the links below to find out more about Adélie penguin research in the Ross Sea.