Headlines today have picked up on a study suggesting that a third of Antarctica’s emperor penguins could be wiped out by 2100.
What’s the problem? A predicted loss of sea ice means a loss of krill, the main food source for emperor penguins. Young krill need sea ice to survive as they eat algae that lives in it.
I thought sea ice was increasing in Antarctica? That may well be the case for now, and the study does suggest that penguin numbers may actually increase for a while, but eventually a decline in sea ice will cause a fall in penguin numbers much steeper than this increase. Can anything be done? The study’s authors suggest that putting in marine protection zones to prevent fishing in areas where penguins need to hunt for food may help, but they don’t expect that penguins will have much ability to adapt to changing conditions, unlike these clever climbing penguins.
You can read the full study here: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate2280.html