Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Penguins that shun ice still lose big from a warming climate

12.04.2011
New study concludes loss of ice contributes to diminished food supply

Fluctuations in penguin populations in the Antarctic are linked more strongly to the availability of their primary food source than to changes in their habitats, according to a new study published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Funded in part by the Lenfest Ocean Program, this research indicates that species often considered likely "winners" of changing conditions, such as large-scale ice melting, may actually end up as the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

The two penguin species of focus in the study rely on small shrimp-like creatures known as krill for their survival. A previous assessment in Nature of krill in the Southern Ocean suggests that their abundance has declined as much as 80 percent since the 1970s.

"For penguins and other species, krill is the linchpin in the food web. Regardless of their environmental preferences, we see a connection between climate change and penguin populations through the loss of habitat for their main food source," said Dr. Wayne Trivelpiece, lead author and seabird researcher of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division. "As warming continues, the loss of krill will have a profound effect throughout the Antarctic ecosystem."

A 30-year field study of Adélie (ice-loving) and chinstrap (ice-avoiding) penguins shows that populations of both species in the West Antarctic Peninsula and Scotia Sea have declined by respective averages of 2.9 and 4.3 percent per year for at least the last 10 years. Some colonies have decreased by more than 50 percent. Lack of an abundant supply of krill has been particularly hard on fledgling penguins that must learn where to locate and how to catch the prey on their own, having never been at sea before. Data from the study suggest that fewer young penguins are surviving this transition to independence today than in previous years when these crustaceans were much more abundant.

Although chinstrap penguins avoid feeding in icy habitats, sea ice provides the necessary environment for krill to reproduce. Increasing temperatures and reductions in sea ice have made conditions unfavorable to sustain ample populations of this food source. The authors suggest that fishing for krill and increased competition among other predators also have made them less available to penguins.

"Penguins are excellent indicators of changes to the biological and environmental health of the broader ecosystem because they are easily accessible while breeding on land, yet they depend entirely on food resources from the sea. In addition, unlike many other krill-eating top predators in the Antarctic, such as whales and fur seals, they were not hunted by humans," said Dr. Trivelpiece. "When we see steep declines in populations, as we have been documenting with both chinstrap and Adélie penguins, we know there's a much larger ecological problem."

Adélie penguins, which feed in icy habitats, are also declining due to food shortages and shrinking habitat. They differ from chinstrap penguins, however, in that they have breeding populations outside of the western Antarctic, which makes them less vulnerable to the rapid warming in the Antarctic Peninsula region by comparison.

The Lenfest Ocean Program supports scientific research aimed at forging solutions to the challenges facing the global marine environment. The program was established in 2004 by the Lenfest Foundation and is managed by the Pew Environment Group.

Jo Knight | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.pewtrusts.org

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein

X-ray study throws light on key process for production

A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from DESY's...

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Breaking the optical bandwidth record of stable pulsed lasers

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Choreographing the microRNA-target dance

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Spanish scientists create a 3-D bioprinter to print human skin

24.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>