According to researchers, emperor penguin populations will have decreased by at minimum one fifth by 2100 due to melting sea ice caused by climate change.
Last week, a study revealed that emperor penguins are handling climate change better than expected due to a previously unobserved ability to change breeding ground. However, according to a new paper published in Nature Climate Change, melting sea ice is causing a loss of the penguin’s primary food source, which will inevitably affect penguin population. Emperor penguins eat krill, a shrimp-like crustacean that feeds off algae in the sea ice.
The paper states that by 2100, all emperor penguin colonies are projected to be declining, with at least two-thirds expected to be less than half the size they currently are. The global population is projected to have declined by at least 19% by this time.
“The population is declining. Unless something changes to stop that, the population will go into extinction,” said Hal Caswell, senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and one of the authors.
The researchers went on to suggest that these findings warrant protecting emperor penguins under the endangered species act, which would mean the creation of marine reserves off Antarctica and the implementation of laws to protect the animals.
Source: The Guardian