Climate change seen as likely factor
Emporer penguins and chicks near the British Antarctic Survey’s Halley Research Station on the Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica. PHOTO COURTESY THE BRITISH ANTARCTIC SURVEY.
Loss of sea ice may be driving the decline of some penguin populations. PHOTO: BRITISH ANTARCTIC SURVEY.
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — British scientists in Antarctica have documented the disappearance of an emperor penguin colony from an island near the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. The area has warmed significantly in recent decades and the researchers said a decrease in seasonal sea ice duration may be a key factor in the loss of the colony on Emperor Island.
The changes in sea ice duration are driven by regional climate change around the Antarctic Peninsula, where air and sea temperatures have warmed significantly in recent decades. Taken all together, the signs are compelling that the disappearance of the emperor penguin colony can be traced to climate change impacts, said Dr. Phillip Trathan, head of the British Antarctic Survey’s conservation biology program.
“We looked at alternative hypotheses of why the colony may have disappeared but found little evidence to support these other suggestions,” Trathan said.
In the bigger picture, researchers have also been documenting shifts and losses in populations of other ice-dependent penguin species like Adelies, while other species — like Gentoos — that don’t need ice have expanded their range, Trathan said. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, climate and weather, endangered species, Environment, global warming | Tagged: Antarctic Peninsula, biodiversity, British Antarctic Survey, Brunt Ice Shelf, Dion Islands, Emperor Island, emperor penguins, Environment, global warming, Sea ice, Summit County News, wildlife | 1 Comment »