Adélie Penguins can be found only on the Antarctic coast. They are among the few species that only live in the South Pole, and were discovered in 1840 by the wife of a French explorer.
Until recently, the Adélie Penguins were not considered to be threatened.
Their lives were constructed around the flow temperatures in the Antarctic, moving as the glaciers would cover their preferred habitats and coming back to their nesting area when the weather became warmer.
However, as temperatures continued to rise, the penguins were found to disappear. Scientists predict that by 2060, 30% of the colonies will be in decline, a trend which will continue and reach 60% drop by the end of the century.
The authors of the study say that the decline in the Adélie penguin population that was observed in the last decades is associated with global warming. The change in temperatures has modified their habitat, and as the weather is supposed to continue to rise, the decrease in the number of penguins will also advance.
The study was funded by a biodiversity program initiated by NASA and involved a team of scientists from the Delaware University, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Stony Brook University.
The methods are used space imagery to obtain information on the penguins’ habitat and the population. The data was collected over the last three decades, and the researchers focused on the bare rock areas, the surface of the sea ice, and the water temperature. These factors influence the penguin’s breeding patterns and their habitat.
The satellite imagines permitted scientists to discover where the penguin populations were located during the time, and how their habits changed in the last years.
The scientists say that the images offered valuable information which would have been difficult to obtain through classic methods.
The study used the satellite imagery and the global climate models in order to make predictions on what would be the areas that will remain in good conditions for the penguins to continue to use them for breeding and raising their offspring.
Researchers discovered that the favorable areas would shrink over time, and the penguins will no longer have a suitable habitat.
The populations that are already in decline are situated in the southern and the northern parts of the West Antarctic Peninsula and its nearby islands. Since 1970, the number of penguins already has registered an 80% decrease.
These regions are known for the most unequivocal increase in temperature.
Antarctica has also several refugia, where the Adélie penguins could breed if the warmer climate will make their habitual zones inadequate. For example, Cape Adare has already been used by penguins as an alternative breeding area.
However, the scientists cannot predict what could happen in the next century. Climate changes could trigger the complete disappearance of species, which would transform Antarctica into a bare rock.
Image Source: Wikipedia
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