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Antarctic Krill Habitat Could Decline By 2100 Due To Climate Change

First Posted: Aug 17, 2016 06:17 AM EDT
Antarctic Krill
Antarctic krill is the key species for marine food web chain in the Antarctic waters. NOAA NMFS SWFSC Antarctic Marine Living Resources (AMLR) Program/Flickr CC BY 2.0

The researchers discovered that Antarctic Krill could lose their habitat by the year 2100 due to changes in water temperature. The sea ice in Antarctic waters could also shrink the krill habitat by as much as 80 percent by 21st century. This could decline the population of krill and affect the entire marine food chain, according to a new study.

The study was printed online in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. The lead author of the study is Andrea Piñones, a marine scientist at Center for Advance Studies in Arid Zones, Coquimbo, Chile.

Antarctic krill is a small swimming crustacean that can be found in the Antarctic waters of the Southern Ocean. It has a length of about 6 centimeters (2.4 in.) and weighs up to 2 grams (0.071 oz.). It can live for about six years. 

In the study, the climate change shapes the living environment of the Antarctic krill. The probable future changes for the krill habitat involves a sustained increase in ocean temperature and changes in sea ice and chlorophyll a. The researchers used a temperature-dependent krill growth model with data from greenhouse warming simulations. The study searches for understanding the additional pressures krill could face in the coming decades as the climate warms.

Piñones stated that the life cycle of Antarctic krill is closely tied to many factors. These include the water temperature and the availability of the sea ice. The research examined the effects of a warmer ocean and a decline in sea ice on the Antarctic krill, according to Piñones.

The Antarctic krill is a key species to the Antarctic marine food web. It is an essential energy source for whales, squid, penguins, fish and other marine life. Many people also fish for krill for aquarium food, pharmaceuticals, fishing bait and in some food consumed by them. Piñones concluded that the loss of krill could have consequences that would cascade the food web of marine mammals and seabirds, in which they rely on the crustaceans as their main source of food.

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