Do you remember back in grade school and camp when in order to get to know each other, you were required to go around the circle, say your name, your favourite colour, your favourite animal and what you want to be when you were older? Well my answers to the questions went something like this: “Hi my name is Melissa, my favourite colour is purple, I love penguins and I want to be a vet when I grow up!” Surprisingly to this day, I still would not change any of the above answers. My love for penguins goes beyond stating that they are my favourite animal, I have a giant collection in my room and I am planning on going to Cape Town, South Africa summer 2013, to work with them in a six week program.
Climate change currently is affecting many animals, and their ability to adapt to the changes is becoming increasingly difficult. Penguins are dying at an alarming rate due to climate change affecting their habitat and food chain.
Like animals everywhere, Antarctic penguins are trying to adjust to the changes in their habitat brought by warming temperatures. Penguins depend on the ice, as it is what they walk on, breed on and what protects them from predators.
Wayne Trivelpiece is an Antarctic seabird specialist from the Southwest Fisheries Research Division in La Jolla, California, who has been studying Antarctic penguins since 1976. He believes that climate change is having a traumatic effect on penguin populations:
“What is most surprising to me is that such seemingly small changes in temperature can have such massive effects on the penguins that live in the Antarctic and depend on krill as a food source.”
The warming and melting of sea-ice is linked to the decline of Antarctic krill. Krill need the ice to feed on algae that live on its under surface. Researchers say that krill have declined by almost 80% since the 1970s and they further project that a 1°C rice in sea surface temperature could result in a further 95% reduction. The collapse in food supply will be detrimental for penguins, who have already suffered a 50% population decline since the 1980s.
Penguins trek over miles and miles of frozen ice to reach breeding grounds. When those ice sheets melt, this process will be completely altered. As a result, it will prevent penguins from reaching breeding grounds in time. Therefore the number of females that successfully create eggs with offspring in them will be dramatically decreased.
We all need to be aware of the impacts of climate change and how it affects the world. Penguins are just one element of our world that is adversely affected by climate change. We all need to take responsibility to create a collective effort to contribute positively to our environment.
Below are some interesting sites. Included is a World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) link, a youtube video and a Quirks and Quarks interview! Enjoy!