Changes in Sea Ice could Bring Decline in Antarctica's Emperor Penguin Population

Changes in Sea Ice could Bring Decline in Antarctica's Emperor Penguin Populatio

As the sea ice becomes less secure, a new study has raised concerns over the population of Antarctica's emperor penguin. The research published in the journal Nature Climate Change predicts that the population can decline by at least a fifth by 2100.

Sea ice is important for the emperor penguin as on it the birds breed. Now, researchers have urged governments to list the birds as endangered. "The emperor penguin is fully deserving of endangered status due to climate change, and can act as an iconic example of a new global conservation paradigm for species threatened by future climate change", said the study's authors.

The study is the first one to project future of Antarctica's largest penguins. Main aim of the study is to fill in a void in knowing about climate change and wildlife in one of the lesser known parts of world. As sea ice melts, the number of the emperor penguins will decline by at least 19% from current levels by 2100.

Co-author of the study Hal Caswell of the US Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution said that the study findings are not good news for the emperor penguin. As per researchers, West Antarctic colonies expanding from Eastern Weddell Sea to the Western Indian Ocean would have the maximum impact.

This area of Antarctica is witnessing the greatest variability in sea ice cover. Contrary to it, colonies in the Ross Sea will witness the least sea ice loss and variability in cover. Another change that will come with change in sea ice is the availability of krill, which is penguin's major food source.

Environmentalists have asked governments to have marine reserves in the Ross Sea and off East Antarctica. As per Andrea Kavanagh, of the Pew Charitable Trusts, marine reserves would be one of the best ways to protect penguins.

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