Researchers say that the world's second-largest colony of emperor penguins has "almost disappeared" now, as changes in sea ice conditions have made their typical breeding grounds highly unstable.
A group of researchers from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) published their findings on Thursday in the journal Antarctic Science. The team said in a statement that they were "investigating very high resolution satellite images to reveal the unusual results."
Satellite images showed that the emperor penguin colony at Halley Bay, Antarctica, has decreased dramatically in the last three years due to breeding failure caused by severe changes in local environmental conditions.
"Over the last 60 years, sea ice conditions at the Halley Bay site have been stable and reliable," the team said. "But in 201
The group said conditions would recur over the next two years, leading to "the death of nearly all chicks at this location each season."
"The colony in the Halley Bay colony is now almost gone while the nearby colony Dawson Lambton has increased significantly, suggesting that many of the adult emperors have done so, looking for better breeding grounds as environmental conditions have changed, "the researchers said.
Peter Fretwell, lead author of the report and a remote sensing specialist at BAS, said the team had the penguin population at Halley Bay Colony, and other nearby colonies have been using high-resolution satellite imagery for years.
"These images have clearly shown how catastrophic breeding attempts at this location have failed in the last three years," says Fretwell. "Our specialized satellite image analysis can detect individuals and penguin populations, so we can estimate populations based on the known density of groups to obtain a reliable estimate of colony size."
Phil Trathan, a penguin expert with BAS who wrote the report: "It's impossible to say if the changes in Halley Bay's sea ice conditions are specifically related to climate change, but such a total failure of successful breeding is unprecedented at this location."
Given the environmental uncertainty, the published models suggest that the number of Emperor Penguins will decrease dramatically, "he said, adding that the penguins would likely lose between 50 and 70 percent of their number as the sea before the end of this century Ice conditions are changing as a result of climate change. "
The researchers said they intend to further investigate the colony's response to the altered sea ice conditions in order to help other scientists obtain" important information about how this iconic species will interact with future environmental changes can handle. "