Image of the Day: Perilous Plight of Adélies Penguins

Credit: KyleFoto/flickr

As one of most southerly-distributed seabirds, the Adélie is a species of penguin common along the entire Antarctic coast and except during spring when they come on land to breed, are highly reliant on the sea and its ice to hunt and live. It is this dependence that is causing severe problems for the penguins along the Antarctic Peninsula, the fastest warming region on Earth thanks to human-caused climate change.

The planet as a whole has warmed about 1.3°F since 1900, but on the peninsula, it has shot up by a whopping 5°F in just 50 years, forcing massive ice shelves to disintegrate and sea ice along with penguin population size to diminish. The Adelie penguin population has declined by 80 percent since the 1970s with one colony in particular dropping from 320 to 54 breeding pairs during the 14 years since observation began in 1990.

And melting sea ice isn’t the only climate-induced problem likely to affect the penguins. They face breeding issues on land as temperatures rise and meltwater from snowfall and glaciers increases, increasing the chances their eggs will get washed away.