Most of the Adelie penguins will be extinct by the end of the century.
Approximately 60% of Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) could disappear by the end of the century due to melting ice in the Antarctic, constant rain and heat in the breeding areas and other consequences of climate change.
About this, say environmentalists, who published an article in the journal Scientific Reports.
“Only recently we learned that the reduction in the number of Adelie penguins has been associated with global warming. This means that temperatures in some regions of Antarctica have become so high that their growth does not help the birds survive, but rather prevent them,” said Megan Cimino from the University of Delaware in Lewes (USA).
Cimino and her colleagues were interested in how the penguins respond to climate change, after recently paleontologists have found that past episodes of warming in the Antarctic has led not to a reduction, as it was expected, and to increase populations of these waterfowl. Scientists decided to test whether this happens today, following the varied nature of migration of Adelie penguins, as well as the temperature of the seas and other climate parameters during the last decades.
Using observations of colonies of these birds, collected by the inhabitants of the Antarctic stations, satellites and marine expeditions, the scientists created a model of the “Kingdom of penguins”, and followed how it would respond to the rise of temperature throughout the remainder of the century. It turned out that the fate of the Adelie penguins will not develop along the lines indicated by paleontology — the habitat of these birds and their numbers will not grow and will be considerably reduced.
By the end of the century, according to their calculations, a large part of today’s penguin colonies would be unsuitable for them, causing their numbers will fall by more than half. Now the number of penguins has fallen by 80% in some regions on the Antarctic Peninsula and in other warm regions of Antarctica, where most often there are extreme weather phenomena.
According to environmentalists, more than the reduction in numbers was influenced by two things – the abnormal weather during the breeding season and high sea surface temperatures. How exactly they affect the lives of Adelie penguins, the team Simino don’t know, but plans to find out.
Two years ago, another group of environmentalists has revealed one of the possible mechanisms for this reduction in the number of penguins, observing colonies of Magellanic penguins on the coast of Argentina. It turned out that their Chicks are dying by the thousands because of the heat and heavy rainfall caused by climatic shifts as they have no means of protection from such weather events. Perhaps something similar is happening with Adelie penguins.