Archived 2016 topics: Adélie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae): downlist from Near Threatened to Least Concern?

BirdLife species factsheet for Adélie Penguin:

The Adélie Penguin Pygoscelis adeliae is found along much of the Antarctic coastline where it breeds on ice-free land including at some of the nearby islands. Individuals are dispersive, moving towards areas of persistent sea ice to moult after breeding (Ainley et al. 2010).

In 2012, the Adélie Penguin was uplisted from Least Concern to Near Threatened based on analyses carried out by BirdLife following work by Ainley et al. (2010) which indicated that northern colonies could be lost by the time that Earth’s average tropospheric temperature reached 2°C above pre-industrial levels. The species was projected to decline at a rate of 20-29% over the next three generations (36 years).

Despite the modelled projections suggesting future decline, there has actually been a recent population increase, particularly in East Antarctica (where most of the world population breeds) and the Ross Sea (Southwell et al. 2015a, b, Lyver et al. 2014) and on the southern Antarctic Peninsula south of 66° S (Sailley et al. 2013). In the northern Peninsula region there is now new evidence that some populations are beginning to stabilize after decades of significant decrease (Fountain et al. in press); population decreases had previously occurred in the northern Peninsula region (Fraser et al. 1992). The net change in world population is now positive (Lynch and LaRue 2014). Thus, although future vigilance will be necessary, this would then qualify the species to be listed as Least Concern.

Any comments on the proposed downlisting are welcome.


Ainley, D.; Russell, J.; Jenouvrier, S.; Woehler, E.; Lyver, P. O’B.; Fraser, W. R.; Kooyman, G. L. 2010. Antarctic penguin response to habitat change as Earth’s troposphere reaches 2°C above preindustrial levels. Ecological Monographs 80: 49-66.

Fraser, W.R.; Trivelpiece, W.Z.; Ainley, D.G.; Trivelpiece, S.G.. 1992. Increases in Antarctic penguin populations:  reduced competition with whales or a loss of sea ice due to global warming? Polar Biology 11: 525-531.

Fountain, A.G.; Saba, G.; Adams, B.; Doran, P.; Fraser, W.;Gooseff, M.; Obryk, M.; Priscu, J.C.; Stammerjohn, S.; Virginia, R.A. In Press.  The impact of a large-scale climate event on Antarctic ecosystem processes.  BioScience.

Lynch HJ, LaRue MA (2014) First global census of the Adélie penguin. The Auk 131: 457–466.

Lyver POB, Barron M, Barton KJ, Ainley DG, Pollard A, Gordon S, et al. (2014) Trends in the breeding population of Adélie penguins in the Ross Sea, 1981-2012: a coincidence of climate and resource extraction effects. PLoS ONE 9: e91188.

Sailley, S.F.; Ducklow, H.W.; Moeller, H.V.; Fraser, W.R.; Schofield, O.M.; Steinberg, D.K.; Garzio, L.M.; Doney, S.C.  2013.  Carbon fluxes and pelagic ecosystem dynamics near two western Antarctic Peninsula Adélie penguin colonies: an inverse model approach.  Marine Ecology Progress Series 492:253-272.

Southwell, C. Emmerson, L., Newbery, K., McKinlay, J., Kerry, K., Woehler, E. and Ensor. P. (2015b) Re-constructing historical Adélie penguin abundance estimates by retrospectively accounting for detection bias. PLoS ONE 10: e0123540.

Southwell, C., Emmerson, L., McKinlay, J., Takahashi, A., Kato, A., Barbraud, C., Delord, K. and Weimerskirch. H. (2015a) Spatially extensive standardized surveys reveal widespread, multi-decadal increase in East Antarctic Adélie penguin populations. PLoS ONE 10 (10): e0139877.

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1 Response to Archived 2016 topics: Adélie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae): downlist from Near Threatened to Least Concern?

  1. James Westrip (BirdLife) says:

    Based on available information, and following review our proposal for the 2016 Red List is to adopt the proposed classifications outlined in the initial forum discussion.

    The final 2016 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in early December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

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