Cameras network remotely operated: a help to enlarge seabird monitoring in Antarctica

Indicative species is a concept used in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) as one of the elements used to monitoring and to manage the Atlantic Ocean marine resources.

This way Antarctic seabirds are important indicators of impacts and changes in ecosystems [1] of the surrounding oceans. Unfortunately, nesting zones of these seabirds are remote and isolated and for that, hard to monitoring using traditional methods. For that reason, remote observation could represent a support alternative methodology in adverse conditions as in Antarctica.

Photography is a way of remote observation that have been used at several years on seabirds monitoring. Biologists are now considering the use of remote photography to monitoring on a large scale through establishing cameras network that capture photographic sequences on a determined timescale.

To test its utility and trust on remote observations, scientists made a pilot study and established a camera network to monitoring Adelia penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae), a bird species more abundant along Antarctica East coast, considered as a indicative species important for the region Ecosystem Monitoring Program.

(A) Adelia penguin (B) Camera system remotely operated.

Through photography, it was possible to compare reproduction data (i.e. reproductive couples, date of arrive to the colony, clust and egg eclosion, number of cubs) collected with direct observations along several years with data collected by camera network. Results shown that remote observations to Adelia penguin is reliable, although data for date of colony arriving and first clust could not be always trustful. Cubs number could vary depending the day of count.

Example of camera image processing that generally stay at 20-50 meters to the colony and contain 30-50 nests. Yellow line limits the region were adults, nests and cubs are count. Green ellipses are occupied nests and red ellipses are unoccupied nest.

Besides that, results show that a camera network could operate with success for long periods with minimal maintenance with extreme ambient conditions. On long-term, remote observation shows as easier way and cheaper than direct monitoring.

Comparison between camera collected observations and direct counts during two reproductive seasons used to evaluate cameras. Dots are temporal series of adults count (grey), occupied nests (blue) and cubs (red) normalized to a occupied nests on beginning of December. Dashed vertical line shows the first arrive data (black) and first egg clust (red)

[1] Biological system constituted by living beings community and natural mean were they live.


Source: Colin Southwell and Louise Emmerson (2015) Remotely-operating camera network expands Antarctic seabird observations of key breeding parameters for ecosystem monitoring and management. Journal for Nature Conservation 23, 1–8. doi: 10.1016/j.jnc.2014.11.002

Authors: Letizia Campioni & Edna Correia