Melting ice threatens penguins

Researchers predict that unless fossil fuels are phased out, there is more than a one-in-three chance that 95% of the world’s best-studied emperor penguin colony in Antarctica will be gone by 2100, New Scientist magazine reported. The colony could be reduced to only a few hundred breeding pairs of the largest penguin species.


Currently, there are 3,000 breeding pairs in the colony — in eastern Antarctica’s Adélie Land — down from 6,000 in the 1970s. Henri Weimerskirch, an ecologist at France’s Chizé Centre for Biological Studies, and his colleagues say there is no reason to think that the penguins in the Adélie Land colony would be any worse affected than others. In making their prediction, the researchers combined what they know about emperor penguin ecology with forecasts from 10 leading climate-change models.


Penguins rely on floating sea ice to nest and feed. Temperatures in Antarctica are warming overall, and, says Weimerskirch, by 2100 there clearly will be much less sea ice around the continent. “[T]here is a tight link between temperatures and the species’ survival”, he notes, and scientists are most concerned that emperor penguins show no signs of adapting to changes in the climate.



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