Washington, June 30 :
Emperor penguins are in danger of dramatic declines by the end of the century due to climate change, says a study, suggesting the iconic animal “fully deserving of endangered status due to climate change”.
By the end of the century at least two-thirds of Emperor penguin colonies will have declined by more than half, the researchers projected.
Emperor penguins are heavily dependent on sea ice for their livelihoods, and, therefore, are sensitive to changes in sea ice concentration (SIC).
The researchers’ analysis of the global, continent-wide Emperor penguin population incorporates current and projected future SIC declines, and determined that all of the colonies would be in decline – many by more than 50 percent – by the end of the century, due to future climate change.
“If sea ice declines at the rates projected by the IPCC (Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change) climate models, and continues to influence Emperor penguins as it did in the second half of the 20th century in Terre Adelie, at least two-thirds of the colonies are projected to have declined by greater than 50 percent from their current size by 2100,” said Stephanie Jenouvrier, a biologist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in the US.
“None of the colonies, even the southern-most locations in the Ross Sea, will provide a viable refuge by the end of 21st century,” Jenouvrier added.
The new study expands on previous work on Emperor penguin colony in Terre Adelie, in eastern Antarctica, by using the previous population models to project how all of Antarctica’s 45 known colonies will respond to future climate change.
The study appeared in the journal Nature Climate Change.