30 Jun 2014:
Antarctica's Emperor Penguins
To Be in Serious Decline By 2100, Study Says
Sea ice loss threatens Emperor penguins.
Antarctica's Emperor penguins are facing dramatic declines by the end of the century and should be given endangered species status because of the threats posed by climate change, according to an international group of scientists
. If sea ice declines at the rates projected by current climate models, at least two-thirds of the colonies will likely shrink by more than 50 percent by 2100, the researchers say. That conclusion follows a 50-year study in eastern Antarctica of Emperor penguins, an iconic Antarctic species with 45 known colonies. Emperor penguins' survival is highly dependent on sea ice concentrations because they breed on the ice, and too little sea ice reduces the habitat for krill, a critical food source for the penguins. “None of the colonies will provide a viable refuge by the end of 21st century,” said an author of the study, published in Nature Climate Change
. Granting the species protected status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act will provide tools for improving fishing practices of U.S. vessels in the Southern Ocean and potentially for reducing CO2 emissions in the U.S. under the Clear Air Act, the researchers say.
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Photographer Peter Essick documents the swift changes wrought by global warming in Antarctica, Greenland, and other far-flung places. View the gallery.
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In a Yale Environment 360
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