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Changes in Heard Island glaciers, king penguins and fur seals since 1947

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posted on 2023-11-02, 04:58 authored by GM Budd
The purpose of this paper is to summarise and discuss the changes in glaciers, king penguins and fur seals reported by the nine wintering parties and 11 summer expeditions that have visited Heard Island since 1947, with emphasis upon those of the years between 1947 and 1971. These early years were notable for an initial period (1947-55) of minimal change, and a subsequent period (1963-71) of rapid change in which a complex pattern of asynchronous glacier retreat and readvance was observed and the main features of the island's recolonisation by king penguins and fur seals were established. Subsequent expeditions (1980-93) have reported continuing glacier recession, evidently in response to warmer air temperatures, and a continuing exponential increase in king penguins and fur seals. The glacier observarions show that the Heard Island glaciers are sensitive indicators of climate change in the Southern Ocean, and of the interactions between climate and glacier topography. The island's recolonisation by king penguins and fur seals is attributed mainly to an improved food supply which may itself, like the glacier recession, be a response to changes in atmospheric and oceanic circulation.
Glacier recession and its consequences are changing the island's coastline, and the expanding populations of king penguins and fur seals are damaging the vegetation. All these phenomena, occurring as they do in an island with a hitherto undamaged ecosystem and no introduced predators, clearly warrant continuing study.

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Publication title

Papers & Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania

Volume

133

Pagination

47-60

ISSN

0080-4703

Rights statement

Copyright Royal Society of Tasmania.

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