Emperor penguin at serious risk of extinction due to climate change

The emperor penguin, which roams the frozen tundra and cold seas of Antarctica, is at serious risk of extinction in the next 30 to 40 years as a result of climate change, warned an expert from the Argentine Antarctic Institute (IAA).
The world’s largest penguin and one of only two penguin species endemic to Antarctica, the emperor gives birth during the Antarctic winter and requires solid sea ice from April to December to nest the chicks.
If the sea freezes later or melts prematurely, the emperor family cannot complete their reproductive cycle.
“If the water reaches the newborn penguins, which are not ready to swim and do not have waterproof plumage, they die of cold and drown,” said biologist Marcela Libertelli, who has studied 15,000 penguins in two colonies in Antarctica in the IAA.
This has happened in the colony of Halley Bay in the Weddell Sea, the second largest colony of emperor penguins, where for three years all the chicks died.
Every August, in the middle of the southern hemisphere winter, Libertelli and other scientists from Argentina’s Marambio Base in Antarctica travel 65 km (40 miles) each day by motorcycle in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius (-40°F). to get to the nearest emperor penguin colony.
Once there, they count, weigh and measure the chicks, take geographic coordinates and take blood samples. They also perform aerial analysis.
The scientists’ findings point to a bleak future for the species if climate change is not mitigated.
“The projections point to the fact that the colonies that are located between latitudes 60 and 70 degrees will disappear in the next few decades, that is, in the next 30, 40 years,” Libertelli told Reuters.
Unique features of the emperor include the longest reproductive cycle among penguins. After a chick hatches, one of the parents continues to carry it between its legs to keep it warm until it develops its final plumage.
“The disappearance of any species is a tragedy for the planet,” Libertelli said. “Whether it’s small or big, plant or animal, it doesn’t matter. It’s a loss to biodiversity.”
The disappearance of the emperor penguin could have a dramatic impact throughout Antarctica, an extreme environment where food chains have fewer members and fewer links, Libertelli said.
In early April, the World Meteorological Organization warned of “increasingly extreme temperatures coupled with unusual rainfall and ice melting in Antarctica,” a “worrisome trend,” Libertelli said, as Antarctic ice sheets have been running low since at least 1999.
The boom in tourism and fishing in Antarctica has also put the emperor’s future at risk by affecting krill, one of the main food sources for penguins and other species.
“Tourist ships often have various negative effects on Antarctica, as do fisheries,” Libertelli said.
“It is important that there is more control and that we think about the future.”

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