Global Warming Poses a Threat to Emperor Penguins

The biggest threat to emperor penguins may not be leopard seals or even killer whales, but a much larger predator: global warming.

Climate change, which is quickly melting the sea ice this species depends on for survival, could cause dramatic drops in the number of emperor penguins across Antarctica by the end of the century, a new study finds. Specifically, more than two-thirds of Antarctica’s emperor penguin colonies will decline by more than 50 percent by the end of the century under future climate change scenarios.

The researchers, from France, the Netherlands and the United States, are pushing to have this iconic species listed as endangered before its numbers hit critical lows. Doing so, the researchers said, may establish “a new global conservation paradigm for species threatened by future climate change.”

The research, detailed on June 29 in the journal Climate Change, is based in part on a 50-year intensive study — supported by the French Polar Institute (IPEV) and Zone Atelier Antarctique (LTER France) — of an emperor penguin colony in Terre Adélie, East Antarctica. Researchers have been closely monitoring the Terre Adélie population each year, collecting biological measurements of the penguins there and charting the population’s growth and decline.

 

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Source: mnn.com