Extreme Variation in Climate Killing Magellanic Penguins Chicks in Argentina

Climate change is killing chicks of Magellanic penguins in Argentina, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS One.

The latest study shows that the chicks are dying due to variation in climate- from heavy rainfall to extreme heat wave. Previously, it was believed that starvation was killing the penguin chicks.

The study, conducted by researchers at University of Washington, found that downy penguin chicks, which haven’t developed feathers, find it extremely difficult to stay warm during rains and die due to hypothermia. Also, during heat waves, these chicks can’t take a dip in the water to cool down.

For the study, researchers looked at data collected over the past 27 years. The research was based on effects of climate change on the Magellanic penguins, which live on the arid Punta Tombo peninsula, BBC reported. About 200,000 penguin pairs reside on the peninsula from September until February.

“It’s the first long-term study to show climate change having a major impact on chick survival and reproductive success,” said Dee Boersma, UW biology professor, according to a news release.

About 65 percent of chicks died every year during the past 27 years, the study showed. Starvation contributed to some 40 percent of these deaths. Climate change is a relatively new phenomenon and the study showed that it killed nearly seven percent of chicks on an average. However, there were years where climate change accounted for most number of deaths- up to 43 percent of chick deaths.

Climate researchers said that the storms hitting the Argentinean coast are likely to get worse in the next few years, killing more penguin chicks, nbcnews reported.

“We’re going to see years where almost no chicks survive if climate change makes storms bigger and more frequent during vulnerable times of the breeding season as climatologists predict,” said Ginger Rebstock, UW research scientist and the co-author of the paper.

The Magellanic penguins are also found in the Chile-side of South America. They share their breeding sites with at least 60 other bird species, meaning that climate change will affect the biodiversity in the region.

“Increasing storminess bodes ill not only for Magellanic penguins but for many other species,” researchers wrote.

Source | http://www.natureworldnews.com