Scientists have predicted the disappearance of an entire Adélie penguins colony in the Antarctic over the next 20 year if a giant iceberg does not break or is dislodged.
Almost 150,000 Adélie penguins have already died due to the massive iceberg that became grounded near their colony.
The flightless birds used to live close to a large body of open water, an ideal location for them, but in 2010 an iceberg of 2,900 square kilometres became trapped in the bay, living the colony landlocked without sources of food, as reported by The Guardian.
The landlocked forces the penguins to waddle 60 km to the cost to find food and many of them do not succeed in the search, making the large travel danger for the penguins.
“The arrival of iceberg B09B in Commonwealth Bay, East Antarctica, and subsequent fast ice expansion has dramatically increased the distance Adélie penguins breeding at Cape Denison must travel in search of food,” said the researchers in an article published in Antarctic Science.
The colony has shrunk from 160,000 penguins to just 10,000 since 2011, according to the study made by the Climate Change Research Centre at Australia’s University of New South Wales.
Even though the Adélie population have shrunk dramatically over the last years and the possible disappearance of the Commonwealth Bay’s colony will shrink it further, this not mean the extinction of the specie.
Only 30 percent of the Adélie penguin population lives in East Antarctica and a near colony is thriving, according to study. The fact that the other colony is well preserved means that the decreased population in the Commonwealth Bay is due to the iceberg and no other factors involved.
The iceberg has provided researchers a natural experiment to investigate its impact on stranding events and sea ice expansion along the East Antarctic coast. According to the team, their results have important implications for wider range studies if the current increasing sea ice continues.
Source: The Guardian