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Climate Change Threatens Antarctic Penguin Population

Climate Change Threatens Antarctic Penguin Population

The population of Emperor penguins has been found to be under threat because of climate change. According to Discovery News, Stephanie Jenouvrier, a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution biologist, pegs the population of the breeding pairs at 3,000, and estimates “roughly 500 to 600 breeding pairs remaining by the year 2100.”

The study was conducted in Terre Adélie in Antarctica, where French scientists have been observing penguin population for 50 years. The team has highlighted that there used to be 250 breeding pairs of Dion Islet penguin colony near West Antarctic Peninsula in the 70s, which subsequently shrunk down to 20 in 1999. In 2009, they have become extinct. The researchers are concerned that Terre Adélie Emperor penguins may suffer the same fate.

According to The Daily Mail, the researchers note that the melting of ice may also affect “the fish, squid and krill that the penguins eat, which in turn feed on zooplankton and phytoplankton that grow on the ice. If the ice goes, so will the plankton – causing a ripple effect through the food web that could starve the various species penguins rely on for food.”

This phenomenon increases difficulty for forage and breeding. The researchers used 20 climate models which projected “a likely decline in sea ice during key times in the emperor penguins’ breeding cycle.” Discovery News elaborates further, “The birds breed on sea ice then lay eggs in May-June. The male takes responsibility for the entire 62-66 days of incubation while the female goes to sea finding food.” When ice breaks and melts prior to the completion of this phase, only a fraction of the chicks may survive as they are unable to swim.

Jenouvrier told the NY Daily News that slight increases of temperature may mean small to humans, but they are significant changes to other species and “may affect the entire ecosystem.”

Learn more about global warming, connect with organizations that are helping penguins, and spread the word to save the penguins from extinction. Oceanites is a good place to begin.

Also, read about other Animals Most Drastically Affected By Climate Change.

Happy waddling browsing!

Image Credit: pommekiwi/Flickr

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One comment on “Climate Change Threatens Antarctic Penguin Population”

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vanderleun
5 Years Ago

Alas, not even right enough to be wrong: "Antarctic ice shelves not melting at all, new field data show" http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/06/25/antarctic_ice_not_melting/


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