Antarctic Warming to Reduce Animals at Base of Ecosystem, Shift Penguin Populations

Try flight of the penguins: As if our flightless-fowl friends haven't had enough to deal with of late, the warming of the Antarctic Peninsula during the past few decades is also forcing penguin populations to migrate south. You can also cluck your tongues at climate change for diminishing the once-abundant krill that are at the base of the massive food chain at the bottom of the world.

"We're already seeing the marine ecosystems respond dramatically to increases in temperatures along the Antarctic Peninsula," explained Berry Lyons, professor in the School of Earth Sciences and Director of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University. Lyons was among the many polar researchers who reported last week on the global climate threat during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco."Researchers are seeing the movement of penguin populations southward down the peninsula as sea ice lessens along its margins," Lyons said. "Gentoo and chinstrap penguins are shifting south into areas now populated by adelie penguins, and the adelies are being forced further south, all because of the change in sea ice."

A drop in sea ice along the coast means there's a lot less krill to go around. (NASA eggheads concur.) And because krill is a major food source of major animals—and not just whales—any scarcity means reduced resources for higher animals and birds, which will then have to look elsewhere for sustenance.

All global climate models predict a warming in the Antarctic and a decrease in sea ice along its margins, Lyons says.

"Those two things will have great impacts on both the glacial dynamics of the continent but also on the fragile marine and terrestrial ecosystems that have been thriving there in the past," he adds. ::Newswise

Tags: Biodiversity | San Francisco

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