Woods Hole is the epicenter of global warming research, and the latest news this week strikes close to our hearts as local scientists announce research indicating emperor penguins now face shrinking habitats.
Stéphanie Jenouvrier and other biologists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) recently studied a colony of emperor penguins at Terre Adélie in East Antarctica. The WHOI researchers wrote of their results in Global Change Biology and stated, “Overall, the ensemble of models predicts that population declines are far more likely than population increases. We conclude that climate change is a significant risk for the emperor penguin.”
The sea ice that rings the Antarctic is crucial for Emperor penguins survival. Due to global warming this ice is melting – leading to devastating effects for the penguins. Sea ice is not only important for penguins, but for many other living organisms within the food chain. In addition, melting sea ice also makes scientific research difficult.
While Arctic sea ice has declined, the West Antarctic Peninsula has warmed even more. In fact, one emperor penguin colony has completely vanished. The harmful decrease in sea ice is primarily due to global warming – making global warming all the more real and unsettling.
Researchers from WHOI, who observed the specific colony created a mathematical model that ultimately predicted the emperor penguin colony to decline from a present day 3,000 breeding pairs to a mere 575 breeding pairs by 2100. It’s hard to imagine that within 88 years an entire penguin colony could decline so significantly.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s work really hit close to home – thinking that these flightless birds will only decrease in population. We can only hope that our efforts against global warming will increase and mitigate the expected outcome – helping save not only the penguins but also their ecosystem.
Maybe one day Woods Hole will even see one of these adorable birds at the Woods Hole Aquarium?