Warming threat to emperor penguins
The main threat to the penguins comes from changes to sea-ice cover in the Antarctic, which will affect their breeding and feeding. Dynamics will differ between penguin colonies, but all are expected to be in decline by the end of the century. The US, British and Dutch researchers urge governments to list the birds as endangered. Such a listing could impose restrictions on tourism and fishing.
The team, led by Stephanie Jenouvrier of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said the global population of emperor penguins would probably decline by between 19 and 33% from current levels. Dr Jenouvrier said the penguins "face possible extinction throughout a significant portion of their range in the foreseeable future".
She added that emperor colonies in Antarctica's Ross Sea may experience population declines later than others because sea ice conditions are still suitable for them. "Implementing a marine protected area in the Ross Sea could help buy time to avoid extinction and to put in place needed conservation and greenhouse gas mitigation strategies," she said. To feed their young, emperor penguins leave the colony for months at a time and travel long distances across Antarctic ice to reach open water to find nourishment, such as krill.