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The impact of extreme snowstorms on breeding of Antarctic petrels, snow petrels, and south polar skuas in Antarctica

Together with collaborators at the Norwegian Polar Institute, ANTSIE team member Ewan Wakefield has recently published a paper in Current Biology documenting widespread seabird breeding failures in Dronning Maud Land in the austral summer of 2021/2022. Antarctic petrels, snow petrels and south polar skuas were negatively impacted by a series of intense storms early in the breeding season. The impact was catastrophic in the case of Antarctic petrels at Svarthamaren, where only three nests were active. In a normal year, the colony holds tens of thousands of birds. The paper makes the salutatory point that such extreme storms are becoming more common in Antarctica. 

Media coverage of the article includes New Scientist and Spiegel.

Sébastien Descamps, S. Hudson, J. Sulich, E. Wakefield, D. Grémillet, A. Carravieri, S. Orskaug, H. Steen, “Extreme snowstorms lead to large-scale seabird breeding failures in Antarctica.” Current Biology 33(5): R176-R177. 

An Antarctic petrel nesting at Svarthamaren in 2023 – a much more successful breeding season! Photo: Ewan Wakefield