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Long-term Data Collection at Select Antarctic Peninsula Visitor Sites

The Antarctic Site Inventory Project has collected biological data and site-descriptive information in the Antarctic Peninsula region since 1994. This research effort has provided data on those sites which are visited by tourists on shipboard expeditions in the region. The aim is to obtain data on the population status of several key species of Antarctic seabirds, which might be affected by the cumulative impact resulting from visits to the sites. This project will continue the effort by focusing on two heavily-visited Antarctic Peninsula sites: Paulet Island, in the northwestern Weddell Sea and Petermann Island, in the Lemaire Channel near Anvers Island. These sites were selected because both rank among the ten most visited sites in Antarctica each year in terms of numbers of visitors and zodiac landings; both are diverse in species composition, and both are sensitive to potential environmental disruptions from visitors. These data collected focus on two important biological parameters for penguins and blue-eyed shags: (1) breeding population size (number of occupied nests) and (2) breeding success (number of chicks per occupied nests). A long-term data program will be supported, with studies at the two sites over a five-year period. The main focus will be at Petermann Island, selected for intensive study due to its visitor status and location in the region near Palmer Station. This will allow for comparative data with the Palmer Long Term Ecological Research program. Demographic data will be collected in accordance with Standard Methods established by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources Ecosystem Monitoring Program and thus will be comparable with similar data sets being collected by other international Antarctic Treaty nation research programs. While separating human-induced change from change resulting from a combination of environmental factors will be difficult, this work will provide a first step to identify potential impacts. These long-term data sets will contribute to a better understanding of biological processes in the entire region and will contribute valuable information to be used by the Antarctic Treaty Parties as they address issues in environmental stewardship in Antarctica.

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