The Penguin Post has learned that a decline in the population of emperor penguins appears likely this century as climate change reduces the extent of Antarctic sea ice, shows a recently published U.S. study. The research, led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and published this week in Global Change Biology, focuses on a much-observed colony of emperor penguins in Terre Adelie, Antarctica. Employing a set of sophisticated computer simulations of climate and a statistical model of penguin demographics, the authors conclude that the number of breeding pairs may fall by about 80 percent by 2100. Building on previous work, the team examines how the sea ice may vary at key times during the year, such as the seasons of egg laying, incubation and chick-rearing, and how the sea ice concentrations may influence the males and females. The authors stress that their projections contain large uncertainties, because of the difficulties in projecting both climate change and the response of penguins. However, almost all of their computer simulations point to a significant decline in the colony at Terre Adelie, a coastal region of Antarctica where French scientists have conducted penguin observations for more than 50 years. “Our best projections show roughly 500 to 600 breeding pairs remaining by the year 2100,” says lead author Stephanie Jenouvrier, a WHOI biologist. “Today, the population size is around 3,000 breeding pairs.” Another penguin population, the Dion Islets penguin colony close to the West Antarctic Peninsula, has disappeared, possibly because of a decline in Antarctic sea ice, according to the biologist. The nearly four foot tall emperors are the largest species of penguin. They are vulnerable to changes in sea ice, where they breed and raise their young almost exclusively.
Posts Tagged ‘global warming’
It goes without saying that even penguins are affected by the climate change that takes place out there. Due to global warming around the world, their natural environment is affected. Those species that live in the extremely cold regions depend on the ice because it is what they walk on. When it is melting at fast rates it completely changes their natural environment. At the same time it can make them vulnerable to predators that they were protected from in the past due to the thick sheets of ice. Scientists believe that half of the population of penguins in the Antarctic region has been depleted in the last 50 years due to the climate change. It is the species known as the Emperor Penguins that have seen the largest losses. This is due to the warming trends continuing for several years. There is plenty of change that takes place over that span of time, and most of it isn’t positive when it comes to the natural habitat of the penguins.You also need to remember that these penguins trek over miles and miles of frozen ice to be able to get to their breeding grounds. When those sheets of ice are melting though this is more of a difficult process. As a result it can prevent penguins from reaching those breeding grounds in time. Therefore the number of females that successfully create eggs with offspring in them is reduced as well. It may surprise you that some penguins have to worry about sunburn. They live in warmer climates where it is possible for them to become too hot. Some of them need to cover their feet with their flippers while on land to prevent them from being sunburned. Others have to continually attempt to cool their bodies due to the excessive heat. The young are very vulnerable too because they are born with no feathers or very few of them so the rays from the sun can easily penetrate to their skin. These penguins in the warmer areas may spend more of their time in the water to be able to cool off. This can make them more likely to be eaten by predators though because they are in the water for extended lengths of time. They also use plenty of energy to swim around so they will then have to hunt for more food in the water to maintain their needs. While there is research to indicate many species of penguins are making changes so they can adapt to the climate change, the rate of the change may be too fast to allow the penguins to adapt, and besides it doesn’t mean we should allow it to continue. They are doing what they must in order to survive. Yet these changes can easily upset their natural balance of things. As a result there is an increased risk of adults dying as well as their offspring not making it to maturity. In some species of penguins, such stressful changes result in them not participating in reproduction at all. What the future holds for the penguins out there depends on our efforts. Too many people don’t see global warming and climate change as something they need to be concerned about. However, with the education about such issues it is hopeful that more people will take a firm stand to make changes for themselves and for future generations. We all need to be aware of global warming concerns and how they affect the world around us. The penguins are just one more element in our world that is adversely affected by it. That is why we all need to take responsibility for what we contribute to our environment. By taking steps individually to reduce global warming, we can create a collective effort that is going to make a difference.