Aug 30, 2023
Record meltoffs of Antarctic Sea ice have been caused by climate change . This has led to a “catastrophic breeding failure” in the South Pole’s emperor penguin colonies, according to a new report. The damage to these penguins has led some scientists to make a grim prediction. The iconic species may be threatened with extinction by the end of the century.
The British Antarctic Survey published the study. It did so in the journal Nature on Thursday. The team used satellite imagery to collect data. It analyzed five emperor penguin colonies in the Bellinghausen Sea. The colonies ranged in size from 630 mated pairs to 3,500. Between 2018-2022, the team tracked the number of chicks hatched at each location. The numbers fluctuated year by year. But in 2022, tragedy struck. Four of the colonies were recorded to have no chicks survive.
“It’s a grim story.” Dr. Peter Fretwell told The Guardian. He is the study’s lead author. “I was shocked. It’s very hard to think of these cute fluffy chicks dying in large numbers.”
Emperor penguins rely on sturdy ice to lay their eggs. Anchored ice also serves as a vital platform from which to teach fledgling penguins how to swim. Rising global temperatures caused a record early meltoff last year. As a result, eggs tumbled into the sea and fledglings drowned.
Significant reformation of Antarctic ice is crucial. In its absence, greater disaster looms.
“There is mounting evidence that emperor penguins may actually go extinct directly due to loss of sea ice resulting from our planet’s warming,” Cassandra Brooks told CNN. Brooks is a specialist in Antarctic species. She works for the University of Colorado Boulder. “Our window in which to ensure their survival is narrowing,” Brooks stated.
Reflect: What do you think we should do to help animals that are in danger because of changes happening in their environment?
Data Puzzle: The Tipping Point
In this lesson, students analyze data from the work of three ecologists researching how moss campion is affected by climate change and if there is a point that is too warm for the species to thrive.
Endangered Species Critical Habitats
This interactive map shows 859 sites that contain at least 95% of an endangered species population and are identified as key biodiversity areas.
Human Impacts on Ecosystems
This resource from Khan Academy discusses different ways that human activities impact the environment and can disrupt entire ecosystems.