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Location Antarctica
Central coordinates 45o 0.00' West  60o 44.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4ii, A4iii
Area 2,688 ha
Altitude 0 - 375m
Year of IBA assessment 2011





Site description Southern Powell Island is located 7 km east of the southwestern extremity of Coronation Island, between Lewthwaite Strait and Washington Strait, South Orkney Islands. The boundary of the IBA follows the boundary of Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) No. 111, comprising part of Powell Island to the south of John Peaks (375 m) and including Chistoffersen Island, Fredriksen Island, Michelsen Island, Grey Island and neighbouring unnamed islands lying offshore. Much of the land area at this site is ice-free in summer, but a few permanently ice-covered areas are present on southern Powell Island.

Vegetation at the site includes moss banks around Falkland Harbour (southern Powell Island), Christoffersen Island and northern Fredriksen Island, and extensive cover of the algae Prasiola crispa, associated with penguins breeding in the area (ASPA No. 111 Management Plan, 1995). Snow algae also grow on glaciated areas and snow patches around the site.

The nearest research station is Orcadas (Argentina), which lies ~17 km to the southeast on Laurie Island and operates year-round with accommodation for ~45 people in summer and a winter complement of ~14 people (COMNAP, Antarctic Facilities, accessed 01/09/2010). See Ant091 for information on meteorological records and facilities at Signy Station (UK), located 35 km to the west.

Key Biodiversity Southern Powell Island is one of the most populous sites for breeding birds in the South Orkney Islands. Over 8000 breeding pairs of Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua) were recorded in 1983, at several sites on southern Powell Island (5072 pairs), Michelsen Island (2175 pairs) and Christoffersen Island (710 pairs) (Poncet & Poncet 1985). In the same year, 16,750 pairs of Adélie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) and 28,100 pairs of Chinstrap Penguin (P. antarctica) were recorded at the site. Adélie Penguins also breed on Michelsen Island (9000 pairs) and on southern Powell Island (7500 pairs), with a smaller colony on Christoffersen Island (250 pairs). The most abundant Chinstrap breeding site is on Fredriksen Island (21,320 pairs), while smaller colonies are located on southern Powell Island, the southern coast of Michelsen Island (4435 pairs) and on Grey Island (2350 pairs). Small numbers of Macaroni Penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus) also breed among the Gentoo Penguins at the site (ASPA No. 111 Management Plan, 1995).

Southern Giant Petrel (Macronectes giganteusi) breed on southern Powell Island and on Christoffersen and Michelsen islands, and were estimated at 613 breeding pairs in 1982–83 (Patterson et al. 2008). Other breeding birds include the Imperial Shag (Phalacrocorax atriceps) (144 breeding pairs nesting among Chinstrap Penguins on the northern coast of Grey Island in 1988), and the Snow Petrel (Pagodroma nivea), which breeds at Ellefsen Harbour, Michelsen Island and Fredricksen Island (Croxall et al. 1995). Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus), Cape Petrel (Daption capense), Brown Skua (Catharacta lonnbergi) and Greater Sheathbill (Chionis alba) also breed at the site, and Antarctic Prion (Pachyptila desolata) and Black-bellied Storm-petrel (Fregetta tropica) are possible breeders (ASPA No. 111 Management Plan, 1995).

Non-bird biodiversity: Antarctic Fur Seal (Arctocephalus gazella) breed on Michelsen Island, with 34 pups recorded on the island in 1994, indicating an upward trend in the breeding population since the 1950’s (ASPA No. 111 Management Plan, 1995). Non-breeding mammals observed at the site include Southern Elephant Seal (Mirounga leonina), Weddell Seal (Leptonychotes weddellii) and occasionally Leopard Seal (Hydrurga leptonyx) and Crabeater Seal (Lobodon carcinophagus) (ibid.).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Gentoo Penguin Pygoscelis papua breeding  1983  8,000 breeding pairs  A1, A4ii  Near Threatened 
Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus breeding  1982-1983  613 breeding pairs  A4ii  Least Concern 
Phalacrocorax atriceps breeding  1988  144 breeding pairs  A4i  Not Recognised 
A4iii Species group - seabirds A4iii   

Protection status ASPA No.111

References ASPA No.111 Southern Powell Island, South Orkney Islands: Management Plan (1994).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Southern Powell Island and adjacent islands. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/12/2014

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