Penguins sentinel of climate change
“The fragile conservation status of most penguin populations mirrors the Southern Oceans condition and larger marine conservation problems of the world’s oceans.” —Global Penguin Society
Penguins are a group of aquatic, flightless birds living almost exclusively in the southern hemisphere and are highly adapted to life in the water.
Penguins are a long-lived species, which come back to the land for breeding in dense colonies, lay one or two eggs, and take several months to raise their chick(s). Most penguins feed on krill, fish, and squid, caught while swimming underwater. The emperor penguin is the only species to breed during the harsh Antarctic winter, on sea ice. Penguin can dive at incredible depth. A female of emperor penguin has dived to a depth of 535 m (1,755 ft) near McMurdo Sound.
Penguins are extremely sensitive to climate change. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed 60% of the 18 penguin species as vulnerable or endangered, and the impact of climate on the food web and habitat is one of the most commonly suggested causes of population decline. Even abundant species like the Macaroni are in steep decline.
In Antarctica, changes in sea ice have altered the breeding and feeding habitat quality and availability for several penguin populations. Temperate penguin species have also been affected by climate changes, such as sea surface temperature or global climate oscillation, such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation.
Our goal is to understand and predict penguin population responses to climate change. To do so, we are studying several penguin species from Antarctica to sub-Antarctica. Our group includes international and interdisciplinary collaborations, involving penguin scientists, mathematical ecologists and climatologists. By combining information on the life history of the penguins, the impacts of climate conditions and the forecasts of future climate change from climate models enabled us to show that global emperor penguin population will decline drastically, and many colonies will face substantial risk of extinction by 2100 (Jenouvrier et al. 2014, Oli, 2014). Thus, we believe that emperor penguin is fully deserving of Endangered status due to climate change, and can act as an iconic example of a new global conservation paradigm for species threatened by future climate change.
The Decline and Fall of the Emperor Penguin?
Climate Change and Shrinking Ice Threaten Polar Birds
from Oceanus magazine November 2013
Are Emperor Penguins Marching to Extinction?
from Oceanus magazine September 2009
Other relevant websites
- Karnauskas KB, Jenouvrier S, Brown CW, Murtugudde R. 2015. Strong sea surface cooling in the eastern equatorial Pacific and implications for Galápagos Penguin conservation. Geophysical Research Letters. 42 : 6432–6437
- Ballerini T, Tavecchia G, Pezzo F, Jenouvrier S and Olmastroni S. 2015. Predicting responses of the Adélie penguin population of Edmonson Point to future sea ice changes in the Ross Sea. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 3:8. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2015.00008.
- Jenouvrier S. Holland M. Stroeve J. Barbraud C. Weimerskirch. H. Serreze M. Caswell H. 2014. Projected continent-wide declines of the emperor penguin under climate change. Nature Climate Change 4: 715-718
- Jenouvrier S. Impacts of climate change on avian populations. 2013. Global Change Biology, 19: 2036–2057
- Jenouvrier S. Holland M. Stroeve J. Barbraud C. Weimerskirch. H. Serreze M. Caswell H. 2012. Effects of climate change on an emperor penguin population: analysis of coupled demographic and climate models. Global Change Biology. 18: 2756–2770.
- Jenouvrier S. Caswell H. Barbraud C. and Weimerskirch H. 2010. Mating behavior, population growth and the operational sex ratio: a periodic two-sex model approach. American Naturalist, 175: 739–752.
- Ainley, D. Russell J. Jenouvrier S. Woehler E. Lyvers P. Fraser W. and Kooyman G. 2010. Antarctic penguin response to habitat change as Earth’s troposphere nears 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Ecological Monographs, 80: 49–66.
- Jenouvrier S. Barbraud C. Weimerskirch H. and Caswell H. 2009. Limitation of population recovery: a stochastic approach to the case of emperor penguin. Oikos, 118: 1292-1298.
- Jenouvrier S. Caswell H. Barbraud C. Holland M. Stroeve J. Weimerskirch. H. 2009. Demographic models and IPCC climate projections predict the decline of an emperor penguin population. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106: 1844-1847
- Jenouvrier S. Barbraud C. and Weimerskirch. H. 2006. Sea ice affects the population dynamics of Adélie penguins in Terre Adélie. Polar Biology, 1432-2056.
- Jenouvrier S. Barbraud C. and Weimerskirch. H. 2005. Long-term contrasted responses to climate of two Antarctic seabirds species. Ecology, 86:2889-2903.
- Jenouvrier S. Weimerskirch. H. Barbraud C. Park Y-H. and Cazelles B. 2005. Evidence of a shift in cyclicity of Antarctic seabirds dynamics link to climate. Proceedings of the Royal Society, 272: 887-895.