Rain Storms and Heat Waves Threaten Penguin Populations

penguin chick

Recently we saw how changes in the climate are forcing the Arctic polar bears to change their diet and are on the verge of extinction. Another such study reveals that such drastic change in the climate is taking a heavy toll on the penguin chick population in Argentina. According to the study conducted by the University of Washington, these young ones, due to extreme weather conditions are dying directly due to lack of food and indirectly as a consequence of heat and drenching rainstorm. 

The drastic variation in the climate has adversely impacted one of the biggest colonies of Magellanic penguin. Their chicks are too big for their parents to cover them during cold. And are too young to have waterproof wings to take a dip in water during heat waves, making them prone in both the weather conditions.

The research work done on these seabirds over a period of 27 years shows that out of 67 percent of the penguin chicks dying every year, death due to starvation alone accounts for 40 percent. Climate change generally accounted for 7 percent of chicks deaths every year, however, it was responsible for the deaths of 43 percent of chicks one year and 50 percent in another.

Researcher Boersma, who has conducted the field work at Punta Tombo, where during the month from September through February around 200,000 couples dwell to have their offspring, said;

It’s the first long-term study to show climate change having a major impact on chick survival and reproductive success.

Most of the earlier research recorded the outcome of rain storms or heat waves on the overall population, in a particular year. But recently more emphasis has been directed on how the penguins are getting affected by the relatively new cause, as changes in climate. And as the climate changes gets aggravate, it will cause more deaths due to starvation and worsen weather conditions.

During a storm, a hungry and starving chick is more vulnerable to die. Moreover, the number of storms at the nesting site have increased between 1983 and 2010, making chicks that were less than 25 days old, more susceptible to die during such storms or heat waves.

We cannot immediately control the changes in the climate, but we can take steps to ensure that these penguins have enough food around, which may eventually lower the number of deaths. Therefore, for the survival of penguins a marine reserve should be created with strict fishing mandate, where penguins and hunt and flourish.

According to Ginger Rebstock, UW research scientist and the co-author of the paper said.

We’re going to see years where almost no chicks survive if climate change makes storms bigger and more frequent during vulnerable times of the breeding season as climatologists predict.

It’s time for us to take measures to stop or at least slow down the rate of climate change or else we will loose these beautiful species. And as the different species are dependent on one another, extinction of one will affect the population of another and so on.

Source: Science World Report

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