Penguin Population Drops- Global Warming Responsible!
A new target of global warming is Antarctica's largest sea bird the Emperor penguin likely to wane by this century as climate change reduces the extent of Antarctic sea ice, U.S researchers say.
Similar to the polar bear, who were the first species to become endangered because of global warming, a new study by researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) finds that Emperor Penguins may eventually disappear as their habitats fade away. It is believed that by 2100, the number of number of breeding pairs may drop by about 80 percent.
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Stephanie Jenouvrier- WHOI biologist and lead author of the study commented, "Over the last century, we have already observed the disappearance of the Dion Islets penguin colony, close to the West Antarctic Peninsula. In 1948 and the 1970s, scientists recorded more than 150 breeding pairs there. By 1999, the population was down to just 20 pairs, and in 2009, it had vanished entirely."
The researchers at WHOI are using the climate models, sea ice forecast, and a demographic model to to project how penguin population may fare in future at key times during the year- during egg laying, incubation, rearing chicks, non breeding seasons.
Melting sea greatly affects the penguin's food source. They live on fish, squid zooplanktons and phytoplanktons. All this dies when there's no ice, thereby causing an imbalance in the food web effecting various species that act as a pray to the penguins.
Hal Caswell, a WHOI senior mathematical biologist and collaborator on the paper says, "Combining this type of long-term population data with information on climate was key to the study. If you want to study the effects of climate on a particular species, there are three pieces that you have to put together. The first is a description of the entire life cycle of the organism, and how individuals move through that life cycle. The second piece is how the cycle is affected by climate variables. And the crucial third piece is a prediction of what those variables may look like in the future, which involves collaboration with climate scientists."
This researchers conclude that the rising temperature in the Antarctic isn't just centered around penguin. As sea ice coverage continues to shrink, the resulting changes in the Antarctic marine environment will affect other species, and may affect humans as well.