Penguin population may drop by 60% by the end of the century —

Adelie Pinguin

Adelie Pinguin

The penguin population is expected to drop by a staggering 60% by the end of this century, a study from the University of Delaware has found. Climate change has “influenced the distribution patterns” of Adélie penguins across Antarctica over thousands of years.

The warming of glaciers had been beneficial to the penguins over thousands of years, with glaciers melting and allowing them to return to breeding grounds in more rocky areas. But climate change has now forced these warming periods to a “tipping point”, meaning the colony may decline by 60 per cent by 2099.

“It is only in recent decades that we know Adélie penguins population declines are associated with warming, which suggests many regions of Antarctica have warmed too much and that further warming is no longer positive for the species,” said the paper’s lead author Megan Cimino.

A colony of Adelie Penguins

A colony of Adelie Penguins

The penguin species has already experienced “serious population declines” in the Western Peninsula of Antarctica because of climate change.

The study used satellite data to predict the penguin population.

“Our study used massive amounts of data to run habitat suitability models. From other studies that used actual ground counts – people going and physically counting penguins – and from high resolution satellite imagery, we have global estimates of Adélie penguin breeding locations, meaning where they are present and where they are absent, throughout the entire Southern Ocean,” said Cimino.

“We also have estimates of population size and how their populations have changed over last few decades.”

When this data was combined with satellite information and future climate projections on sea surface temperature and sea ice, the team was able to predict future population changes.

“Studies like this are important because they focus our attention on areas where a species is most vulnerable to change,” said Cimino. “The results can be used for management; they can have implications for other species that live in the area and for other ecosystem processes.” (Wired)

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