More than 90 percent of emperor penguin colonies Antarctica are on the verge of possible collapse by the end of the century due to excessive loss of sea ice operated by climate crisisNew research has found.
The alarming rate of distress is due to an unprecedented breeding failure resulting from sea ice loss in a significant area, says the study, conducted by researchers from the British Antarctic Survey and published Thursday in the journal Nature. Communication Earth and Environment,
The research focused on the central and eastern Bellingshausen Sea, where satellite images revealed an absence of sea ice at breeding sites before the chicks developed waterproof feathers, leading to an almost complete failure of breeding among emperor penguin colonies.
“We’ve never seen Emperor penguins They “fail to reproduce at this scale in a single season,” said Peter Fretwell, lead author of the study.
“The loss of sea ice in this region during the Antarctic summer has greatly reduced the chances of survival for displaced chicks.”
“We know that emperor penguins are highly vulnerable to a warming climate, and current scientific evidence suggests that such extreme sea ice loss events will become more frequent and widespread,” Dr Fretwell said.
Emperor penguins are heavily dependent on stable sea ice, especially “land-fast” ice attached to the coast, for their breeding cycle, the study said.
These penguins lay eggs during the Antarctic winter from May to June and hatch after a period of 65 days. However, the chicks do not fledge until the summer, between December and January.
This year’s loss of sea ice, which occurred earlier than normal during the breeding season, has given these vulnerable chicks insufficient time to develop and survive.
Antarctica has seen a steady decline in sea ice extent in recent years, with the four lowest extents recorded between 2016 and 2022.
2021-22 and 2022-23 see lowest sea ice extent in 45-year satellite record.
In the central and eastern Bellingshausen Sea, sea ice loss reached peak levels, with November 2022 seeing complete loss of sea ice.
The research focused on five recently discovered emperor penguin colonies: Rothschild Island, Vardy Inlet, Smiley Island, Bryan Peninsula and Pfrogner Point.
These colonies showed consistency in returning to the same breeding sites annually. Although the study found dire conditions, four of these five colonies showed no signs of chick survival, highlighting the seriousness of the crisis.
“Sea ice extent in Antarctica is still well below all previous records for this time of year. Dr Caroline Holmes, polar climate scientist at the British Antarctic Survey, said: “In this period where the oceans are freezing, we are seeing regions that are still, remarkably, largely ice-free.
“Recent records of sea ice decline and subsurface Southern Ocean warming point strongly to human-induced Global warming further exacerbating these extremes.”
The study’s findings underscore the important link between sea ice loss and the potential collapse of entire ecosystems, the authors said.
“Sea ice is melting at an alarming rate due to climate change. It is likely to be absent from the Arctic in the 2030s – and in the Antarctic, the lowest sea ice extent of the four has been recorded since 2016,” said Dr Jeremy Wilkinson, sea ice physicist at the British Antarctic Survey.
“This is another warning sign to humanity that we cannot continue on this path; Politicians must act to reduce the effects of climate change. There’s no time left.”