Penguin Day 2017: Climate Change Endangers Two Most Common Species of Penguins in Antarctica
A new study by the non-profit organization Oceanites, in collaboration with researchers from Stony Brook University in New York and NASA, revealed that two of the most common species of penguins in Antarctica have experienced a severe decline due to climate change.
The study, dubbed as the "State of Antarctic Penguin" report 2017, showed that the population of Antarctic penguins has dropped by over 25 percent on average over the past 20 years. Sadly, both the adélie penguin population in Petermann Island and the chinstrap colony at Baily Head on Deception Island experience more than 50 percent decline.
"In one generation, I have personally witnessed the precipitous decline of once-abundant Adélie and chinstrap penguin populations," said Ron Naveen, founder of Oceanites and lead investigator of the study, in a report from CBS News. "These iconic birds are literally canaries in the coal mine. They provide critical insights into the dramatic changes taking place in the Antarctic."
For the study, the researchers relied on satellite photos and on-the-ground analysis from more than 660 sites across Antarctica, including more than 3,000 records from 100 sources of on-the-ground colony counts.
Among the five known penguin species living in Antarctica, the populations of adélie and chinstrap penguins are in decline. On the other hand, the population of gentoo penguins seemed to be faring really well, adapting to climate change. Other penguin species included in the study are the emperor penguins and macaroni penguins. Emperor and adélie are the only penguin species that can breed around the continent, while the three other species are restricted to the northern part of Antarctica.
The researchers noted that climate change, together with the ability of the penguins to adapt, is causing the severe decline in penguin populations. Over the last six years, the average temperature in the Antarctic Peninsula has increased by five degrees Fahrenheit. The warmer temperatures in the continent is causing the sea ice to melt faster, negatively affecting the food source of the penguins.