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Social-Ecological Systems Meta-Analysis Database: Component

SummaryThe King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) is a subantarctic penguin that has breeding colonies throughout the subantarctic Islands, including on the Heard and McDonald Islands. King Penguins drastically declined during the 19th and beginning of 20th century (due to exploitation associated with the sealing industry) and have since been recovering. Most colonies grew rapidly between 1970 and 1990. They are a close relative of Emperor Penguins.
SubtypeNatural Resource Unit
SectorMarine protected areas
Commons AggregationPopulation
ExplanationKing penguin are a species of penguin related to Emperor penguins (same genus). Their population is found throughout the subantarctic, with breeding colonies on subantarctic islands, including at Heard and McDonald Islands.
Commons BoundariesSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)
ExplanationKing penguins were heavily harvested in the late 19th and early 20th century (in association with the sealing industry) and all colonies have since been recovering. Location of colonies and their recovery has been well studied. In many colonies their life history has also been well-studied, as well as their foraging range and behavior. However, their exact location at any given time is difficult to determine because they occupy different spaces during different times of their life history (see Woehler 2006; Bost et al. 2013 and references therein).
Commons Indicator["Ecosystem health and/or biodiversity"]
ExplanationKing penguins feed on pelagic fish, especially myctophids (mesopelagic fish) and some squid, foraging largely out at the Polar Front (Bost et al. 2013). At Heard and McDonald Islands, King Penguins have also been known to feed on Mackerel Icefish (which are also commercially harvested) especially in the winter (Moore et al. 1998). They are very vulnerable to environmental and climate change and could be threatened by a potential fishery interaction (if prey species is targeted or if targeted species also feeds on prey species; Bost et al. 2013).
Commons Unit SizeMedium (3)
ExplanationThe king penguin is the second largest species of penguins, growing up to about three feet in height and 35 lbs in weight (Bost et al. 2013).
Environmental MediumOceanic
ExplanationBreeds on land, but forages in the ocean.
Inter Annual PredictabilityHigh (3)
ExplanationKing Penguins are well studied with the location of breeding colonies well known. Most local populations have stabilized since being overexploited in the past (see Bost et al. 2013 and references therein).
Intra Annual PredictabilityHigh (3)
ExplanationColony location and breeding life cycle is well known for King Penguins. Their foraging ecology has been extensively studied and is strongly dependent on the frontal zone features, especially the Antarctic Polar Front. Because of their unusual breeding life cycle (the longest of all seabirds, lasting more than a year), there are always penguins at the colony, even though the laying period is asynchronous and has considerable variation between breeding sites and years (Bost et al. 2013 and references therein).
Commons RenewabilityRenewable (1)
ProductivityModerately Productive (2)
ExplanationAll populations have been increasing since being overexploited in the 19th and early 20th centuries and most are considered fully recovered and were considered to have recovered fairly quickly once exploitation ceased. Populations at Heard and Kerguelen were slower to recover and are thus still increasing. They have the longest breeding cycle (18 months) of all seabirds (Bost et al. 2013 and references therein).
Commons AccessibilitySomewhat accessible (2)
ExplanationThe resource is accessible via ships, however, its vast distance from ports means that transportation costs might outweigh the benefits of harvesting and other activities. Tourist vessels do visit King Penguin colonies on subantarctic islands (but they are not allowed to harm the birds).
Commons HeterogeneityModerate (2)
ExplanationPopulations are more concentrated at colonies during the breeding season, but can disperse widely during foraging and when not breeding.
Commons MobilityHigh (3)
ExplanationKing Penguins forage at great depths and have high mobility. They are among the world's deepest diving seabirds, second only to Emperor penguins. They usually forage between 100-200 meters, but have been recorded diving to 440 m. During the summer season, then tend to stay within 500 meters of their breeding colonies, while in the winter, they have been recorded traveling up to 1800 km from their colony (5000 km traveled round trip; Putz et al. 1999).
Commons Spatial Extent20000
ExplanationBased on estimates from Bird Life International, King Penguins' extent of occurrence is <20,000km-2 (Bird Life 2015).
Technical SubstituteNo