Climate change is affecting Antarctica's penguin population, which is reducing rapidly, especially in regions where the impact of global warming is felt the most. The population is expected to plummet by 60 percent at the end of this century.
The main reason for their plummeting population is the warming of sea water. Even though the penguins cannot survive extremely cold temperatures, the warmer places too cannot let them live, explain experts, relying on global climate model projections and satellite data for their study.
About 30 percent of Adélie colonies in Antarctica may be wiped out by 2060, and 60 percent by 2099.
The West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), one of the most rapidly warming regions on earth, is exposed to temperatures that are warmer than average. They are called the "novel climate" regions, according to the lead author of the study Dr. Megan Cimino. Thus, the penguin population has plummeted by almost 80 percent. It is expected that novel climate will continue to hold sway over them this century.
"These two things seem to be happening in the WAP at a higher rate than in other areas during the same time period," Dr. Cimino said in a University of Delaware statement.
"It is only in recent decades that we know Adélie penguins population declines are associated with warming, which suggests that many regions of Antarctica have warmed too much and that further warming is no longer positive for the species ... These two things seem to be happening in the WAP at a higher rate than in other areas during the same time period," Cimino added.
In some areas, where climate change is less rapid, such as Cape Adare in East Antarctic, the Adélie population remains stable and is even increasing. There will be rising numbers of the penguin population in the south over the next century.
"The Cape Adare region of the Ross Sea is home to the earliest known penguin occupation and has the largest known Adélie penguin rookery in the world. Though the climate there is expected to warm a bit, it looks like it could be a refugium in the future, and if you look back over geologic time it was likely one in the past," Cimino added.
The study has been published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.