Two new studies have shown that penguins are struggling to cope with the effects of global warming.
Scientists have spent several years studying the animals and their findings show a worrying trend in both areas.
Adelie penguins living on Ross Island, Antarctica, are struggling to feed as melting sea ice fragments to form giant icebergs.
Meanwhile Magellanic penguins at Punta Tombo, Argentina, have been affected by huge rainstorms and strong heat waves.
The Magellanic chicks are only protected by a downy coat and can be left to struggle and eventually die when rain torrential rain hits their colony.
Conversely, when a heat wave hits, the chicks’ lack of waterproofing means they are unable to cool off by taking a dip.
In Antarctica, scientists spent 13 years collecting data on the foraging ability of chick-rearing Adelie penguins, which depend on year-round sea ice.
Under “normal” circumstances, the penguins had no problems dealing with changes in sea ice concentrations.
But giant icebergs, appearing as a consequence of global warming, reduced their chances of catching fish to eat.
It is unknown how the penguins would cope if such conditions became more common.
Meanwhile, a 27-year-long study of 400,000 Argentinian penguins found that an average of 65 per cent of chicks died every year, with around 40 per cent of the deaths caused by starvation.
In some years climate change was the most common cause of death, despite only contributing to an average of 7 per cent overall.
In one year, 50 per cent of all chick deaths were attributed to climate change, and 43 per cent in another year were due to the same cause.
The researchers explained that starvation and the weather were becoming increasingly linked as the climate changed.
Dr Ginger Rebstock, a researcher from the University of Washington, said: “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.”
Professor Dee Boersma, also from the University of Washington, led the study. She said: “Starving chicks are more likely to die in a storm”.
The lead researcher in the Antarctica study, Dr Amelie Lescroel, from the Centre d’Ecologie Fontionnelle et Evolutive in France, said: “If the frequency of such extreme events increases, then it will become very hard to predict how penguin populations will buffer future sea ice changes.”
The studies appear in the the latest edition of the online journal Public Library of Science ONE.
Source | http://www.express.co.uk