If global warming continues at the current rate, imperial penguins could be nearly extinct by the end of the century, suggests new research. By 2100, their numbers would have fallen by 86 percent.
Imperial penguins could be threatened with extinction by the end of the century, according to a new study by researcher Stephanie Jenouvrier of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). If global warming continues at this rate, its population will decrease by 86 percent by 2100.
Global warming threatens penguin habitat
Imperial penguins can grow up to 130 centimeters and live in colonies on packaged ice in Antarctica. Sea ice serves the penguins, among other things, as a platform from which they admire food and as a refuge for enemies. It also affects the amount of lemurs and is therefore important for the bird's food chain. Packed ice, however, is increasingly threatened by melting due to climate change.
Compliance with the Paris Climate Agreement is crucial
The Jenouvrier team used and developed various computer models to project the future of pack ice packs and Imperial penguins. The result: If global warming could be limited to 1.5 degrees from pre-industrial times – as predicted by the Paris Climate Agreement – only about five percent of the ice pack would melt and the number of penguin colonies would decrease by about 19 percent. There are currently 54 known colonies.
If global warming could be limited to just two degrees, nearly 15 percent of ice packs would melt, and about a third of existing penguin colonies would disappear.
But if global warming continues as it is now, colonies would fall by 80 percent and penguins by as much as 80 percent, researchers write in Global Change Biology. "In this scenario, the penguins are actually extinct," Jenouvrier said.