As per a recent study conducted by CNRS researchers and published in the journal PNAS, the emperor penguins of Terre Adélie are at danger of extinction by 2100 as a result of the melting of Antarctic sea ice caused by global warming, which is related to climate change.

While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts an average increase in temperatures of around 0.2 degrees Celsius every 10 years, a new study coordinated by French researchers from the Center for Biological Studies in Chizé, in collaboration with the American research institute Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, predicts the extinction of the Adélie emperor penguin in 2100, victualling the extinction of the Adélie emperor penguin in the same year.

What Does the Research Show?

According to research published on January 27 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the number of emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) will decrease from 6,000 pairs in 1962 to approximately 400 pairs in 2100, a reduction of 93 percent (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). Researchers also predict that this colony will be extinct by 2100, with a 36 percent chance of becoming extinct permanently in the typical scenario.

The emphasis of this research was on climatic variations that cause the sea ice’s surface area to shrink. In a study published in December 2007, the WWF noted that the emperor penguin population had decreased by 50 percent over a 26-year period along the western Antarctic Peninsula. This was previously highlighted in a study published in December 2007 that observed a 40 percent decrease in emperor penguin population over the same period.

In fact, it is on this ice floe that penguins breed and moult throughout their life cycle. Not only that, but this decline also results in a drop in the reserves of krill, which is their primary food source.

What Are the Findings?

According to the researchers, in order to prevent extinction, emperor penguins must adjust rapidly, either by moving or altering their life cycle. Nevertheless, these seabirds are sluggish to alter their behavior, which puts them at risk of extinction, according to the experts, who also point out that climate change may be beneficial to some species of sub-Antarctic and sub-tropical birds, particularly albatross.

Researchers anticipate a rearrangement of species in the southern hemisphere as a result of climate change in the future years, according to their findings. They estimate that if the temperature rises by “just” 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100, only 5 percent of the ice will be gone, resulting in a 19 percent reduction in the number of penguin colonies in the Arctic. The opposite is true if the globe warms by 2 degrees Celsius, ice melt would treble in comparison to the preceding scenario, and more than a third of the world’s colonies would be wiped off. Finally, if humans do nothing to slow global warming, which will result in a rise in temperature of 5 to 6 degrees Celsius, the loss of colonies will be virtually complete.

The Tragedy has Perhaps Started Already

Even though the deadline of 2100 seems far away, the consequences of global warming are already having a detrimental effect on emperor penguins. Over the course of three years, the second biggest colony in the world, which is situated in the Weddell Sea in Antarctica, has already been almost completely wiped off by melting ice, according to scientists. A study by the British Antarctic Research Center (British Atlantic Survey) revealed that in 2016, a year characterized by unusually hot and windy weather, the ice on which couples of penguins nurse their young, broke way, resulting in the loss of nearly all of the chicks in the colony. It happened again in 2017 and 2018, and it’s happening again in 2019.

Take note of the fact that, according to the World Wildlife Fund, gentoo penguin numbers have declined by 30 to 66 percent in Antarctica over the last 25 years, and that Adélie penguin populations have declined by 65 percent over the same time period in the same continent.