Adélie Penguins Lose Habitats

How Climate Change is Making Penguins Homeless

A Changing Climate

The main causes of climate change are man-made, no surprise there, us humans cause a lot of trouble for Earth. The particular criminal: gasses. Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and others are released into the atmosphere and are trapped there. We've even given a name to this phenomenon, the greenhouse effect. You probably keep hearing about climate change because the levels of these gases have been growing at a very steep linear rate. Growth rates for concentrations of carbon dioxide have been faster in the past 10 years than over any 10-year period since continuous atmospheric monitoring began in the 1950s. (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/science-behind-climate-change/) Now, climate change describes the overall modifications to various areas of Earth, but these differences over time are caused by the trapped gases. When the gas is trapped in the atmosphere, it helps trap heat in the Earth which can melt sea ice, cause the weather to become more extreme, and affect many more aspects of life through a chain reaction.
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Why You Should Care

You're probably thinking "So what? I'm not seeing the effects right now in my immediate vicinity. Obviously, this isn't as important as the media makes it out to be." You're so wrong! It's much bigger and affects you more than you think. Besides the melting ice, the droughts, the floods, and the hurricanes that you don't think affect you; those rising energy bills, that need to crank the AC more and more each summer, are all results of climate change! (https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/kids/impacts/effects/energy.html) Climate change also affects all types of animals. In 2013, in the US alone, 6,673 million metric tons of greenhouse gas were released into the atmosphere. Those cute polar bears in the North and the penguins in the South are losing their homes because of our reliance on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses.
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Walruses being forced ashore due to lack of sea ice

Adélie Penguins? More like ADRENALIE penguins, 'cause these penguins are awesome!

Adélie penguins breed further south than any other penguin, or other birds for that matter. (http://www.antarctica.gov.au/about-antarctica/wildlife/animals/penguins/adelie-penguins) Their colonies range from a few dozen to a few thousand, so their partner option can vary from a lot to little. They're one of five penguin species that actually live on the Antarctic continent. Distribution varies from all sections of the Antarctic coast to small islands offshore, anywhere with exposed rock is preferable for their nests. These adorable penguins typically eat krill, but will also add squid and fish to their diet depending on availability. Predators include leopard seals and skua birds which prey on the young and eggs. One interesting behavior these birds do is when feeding their young the adults will run away and force the chicks to chase after them to get the food. (See video below)
Adelie Penguin Feeding Chase

The Future of these Fluffballs

Adélie penguins need sea ice like songbirds need trees. If there isn't any sea ice nearby, you won't find any of these penguins. Ice floes provide an area for these birds to live with easy access to the ocean for hunting. (http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=126692) One of the most obvious results of climate change and global warming is the melting of sea ice and the resulting rising sea levels. If the sea ice melts, the birds won't be able to hunt. They need the smaller, more dispersed pieces of ice to hunt from because if they are too far from the coast, it takes too long for them to waddle from breeding grounds to get food. One specific example of this is the breaking of iceberg B15. In 2001, this massive iceberg the size of jamaica (http://www.antarctica.gov.au/magazine/2001-2005/issue-1-autumn-2001/science/an-iceberg-the-size-of-jamaica) broke off from the Ross Ice Shelf preventing the sea ice cover from separating into the dispersed pieces of ice the Adélie penguins like. The penguins couldn't reach prey now and could no longer breed.


Right now the penguins are benefitting from the melting sea ice because the more ice floes, the easier it is for them to hunt. However, at the current rate of global sea ice melting at 1% a year the penguins eventually won't have any ice and like I said above, no ice means no penguins.

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Sarah Aaronson