Skip to main content Accessibility help

The impact of the giant iceberg B09B on population size and breeding success of Adélie penguins in Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica

  • Kerry-Jayne Wilson (a1), Chris S.M. Turney (a2), Christopher J. Fogwill (a2) and Estelle Blair (a3)


The arrival of iceberg B09B in Commonwealth Bay, East Antarctica, and subsequent fast ice expansion has dramatically increased the distance Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) breeding at Cape Denison must travel in search of food. This has provided a natural experiment to investigate the impact of iceberg stranding events and sea ice expansion along the East Antarctic coast. As part of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013–14, the Adélie penguin colony at Cape Denison was censused to compare to historic counts. Whilst some 5520 pairs still bred at Cape Denison there has been an order of magnitude decline in Adélie numbers in the area in comparison to the first counts a century ago and, critically, recent estimates based on satellite images and a census in 1997. In contrast, an Adélie population on the eastern fringe of Commonwealth Bay just 8 km from the fast ice edge was thriving, indicating the arrival of B09B and fast ice expansion was probably responsible for the observed recent population decline. In conclusion, the Cape Denison population could be extirpated within 20 years unless B09B relocates or the now perennial fast ice within the bay breaks out. Our results have important implications for wider East Antarctic if the current increasing sea ice trend continues.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Ainley, D.G. 2002. The Adélie penguin: bellweather of climate change. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 310 pp.
Ainley, D.G., Wilson, P.R., Barton, K.J., Ballard, G., Nur, N. & Karl, B. 1998. Diet and foraging effort of Adélie penguins in relation to pack-ice conditions in the southern Ross Sea. Polar Biology, 20, 311319.
Arrigo, K.R. & van Dijken, G.L. 2003. Impact of iceberg C-19 on Ross Sea primary production. Geophysical Research Letters, 30, 10.1029/2003GL017721.
Arrigo, K.R., van Dijken, G.L., Ainley, D.G., Fahnestock, M.A. & Markus, T. 2002. Ecological impact of a large Antarctic iceberg. Geophysical Research Letters, 29, 10.1029/2001GL014160.
Campagne, P., Crosta, X., Houssais, M.N., Swingedouw, D., Schmidt, S., Martin, A., Devred, E., Capo, S., Marieu, V., Closset, I. & Masse, G. 2015. Glacial ice and atmospheric forcing on the Mertz Glacier Polynya over the past 250 years. Nature Communication, 6, 10.1038/ncomms7642.
Clark, G.F., Marzinelli, E.M., Fogwill, C.J., Turney, C.S.M. & Johnston, E.L. 2015. Effects of sea ice cover on marine benthic communities: a natural experiment in Commonwealth Bay, East Antarctica. Polar Biology, 38, 10.1007/s00300-015-1688-x.
Dugger, K.M., Ballard, G., Ainley, D.G., Lyver, P.O. & Schine, C. 2014. Adélie penguins coping with environmental change: results from a natural experiment at the edge of their breeding range. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 2, 10.3389/fevo.2014.00068.
Emslie, S.D. & Woehler, E.J. 2005. A 9000-year record of Adélie penguin occupation and diet in the Windmill Islands, East Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 17, 5766.
Emslie, S.D., Berkman, P.A., Ainley, D.G., Coats, L. & Polito, M. 2003. Late-Holocene initiation of ice-free ecosystems in the southern Ross Sea, Antarctica. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 262, 1925.
Ensor, P.H. & Bassett, J.A. 1987. The breeding status of Adélie penguins and other birds on the coast of George V Land, Antarctica. ANARE Research Notes, 50, 116.
Falla, R.A. 1937. Birds. B.A.N.Z. Antarctic Research Expedition 1929–1931, Report Series B, 2, 288 pp.
Horne, R.S.C. 1983. The distribution of penguin breeding colonies on the Australian Antarctic Territory, Heard Island, the McDonald Islands, and Macquarie Island. ANARE Research Notes, 9, 182.
Lacarra, M., Houssais, M.N., Herbaut, C., Sultan, E. & Beauverger, M. 2014. Dense shelf water production in the Adélie Depression, East Antarctica, 2004–2012: impact of the Mertz Glacier calving. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans, 119, 52035220.
LaRue, M.A., Ainley, D.G., Swanson, M., Dugger, K.M., Lyver, P.O., Barton, K. & Ballard, G. 2013. Climate change winners: receding ice fields facilitate colony expansion and altered dynamics in an Adélie penguin metapopulation. PLoS ONE, 8, 10.1371/journal.pone.0060568.
Lescroël, A., Ballard, G., Grémillet, D., Authier, M. & Ainley, D.G. 2014. Antarctic climate change: extreme events disrupt plastic phenotypic response in Adélie penguins. PLoS ONE, 9, 10.1371/journal.pone.0085291.
Lynch, H.J. & LaRue, M.A. 2014. First global census of the Adélie penguin. Auk, 131, 10.1642/AUK-14-31.1
Mawson, D. 1915. The home of the blizzard: being the story of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911–1914. William Heinemann, 348 & 338 pp.
Mawson, D. 1929. Narrative, Part 1. Cartography, Part 2. Australasian Antarctic Expedition 1911–14 Scientific Report, Series A, 1, 492 pp.
Mawson, D. 1940. Oceanography. Part 5. Marine biological programme and other zoological and botanical activities. Australasian Antarctic Expedition 1911–14 Scientific Report, Series A, 2, 167 pp.
Mawson’s Huts Foundation 2012. Aerial photograph of Cape Denison 2010/2011 by M. Possingham. Viewed 17 June 2015.
Parish, T.R. & Walker, R. 2006. A re-examination of the winds of Adélie Land, Antarctica. Australian Meteorological Magazine, 55, 105117.
Shadwick, E.H., Rintoul, S.R., Tilbrook, B., Williams, G.D., Young, N., Fraser, A.D., Marchant, H., Smith, J. & Tamura, T. 2013. Glacier tongue calving reduced dense water formation and enhanced carbon uptake. Geophysical Research Letters, 40, 904909.
Shepherd, L.D., Millar, C.D., Ballard, G., Ainley, D.G., Wilson, P.R., Haynes, G.D., Baroni, C. & Lambert, D.M. 2005. Microevolution and mega-icebergs in the Antarctic. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 102, 16 71716 722.
Tamura, T., Williams, G.G., Fraser, A.D. & Ohshima, K.I. 2012. Potential regime shift in decreased sea ice production after the Mertz Glacier calving. Nature Communication, 3, 10.1038/ncomms1820.
Watanuki, Y., Kato, A., Mori, Y. & Naito, Y. 1993. Diving performance of Adélie penguins in relation to food availability in fast sea ice areas: comparison between years. Journal of Animal Ecology, 62, 634646.
Watanuki, Y., Kato, A., Naito, Y., Robertson, G. & Robinson, S. 1997. Diving and foraging behaviour of Adélie penguins in areas with and without fast sea ice. Polar Biology, 17, 296304.
Watanuki, Y., Kato, A., Sato, K., Niizuma, Y., Bost, C.A., Le Maho, Y. & Naito, Y. 2002. Parental mass change and food provisioning in Adélie penguins rearing chicks in colonies with contrasting sea ice conditions. Polar Biology, 25, 10.1007/s00300-002-0399-2.
Wilson, K.-J., Taylor, R.H. & Barton, K.J. 1990. The impact of man on Adélie penguins at Cape Hallett, Antarctica. In Kerry, K.R. & Hempel, G., eds. Antarctic ecosystems. Ecological change and conservation. Berlin: Springer, 183190.
Wilson, K.-J., Turney, C., Fogwill, C. & Hunter, J. 2015. Low numbers and apparent long-term stability of South Polar skuas Stercorarius maccormicki at Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica. Marine Ornithology, 43, 103106.
Woehler, E. 1999. updated 2014. Cape Denison Adélie penguin census, November–December 1997 Australian Antarctic Data Centre – CAASM metadata. _redirect.cfm?md=/AMD/AU/ASAC_1219_AAT_APen_CD_97.
Woehler, E.J., Slip, D.J., Robertson, L.M., Fullager, P.J. & Burton, H.R. 1991. The distribution, abundance and status of Adélie penguins Pygoscelis adeliae at the Windmill Islands, Wilkes Land, Antarctica. Marine Ornithology, 19, 118.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

The impact of the giant iceberg B09B on population size and breeding success of Adélie penguins in Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica

  • Kerry-Jayne Wilson (a1), Chris S.M. Turney (a2), Christopher J. Fogwill (a2) and Estelle Blair (a3)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.