Thanks to the effects of climate change, a colony of penguins faces extinction. More than 90% of the 1,60,000-strong rookery has been wiped-out after the grounding of a giant iceberg in their feeding ground.
150,000 Adélie penguins have perished since 2011 at Cape Denison, Antartica, a study published in the Cambridge journals declared. The remaining colony could be wiped out within 20 years unless the ice breaks up or the iceberg, with an area of about 2900 square kilometres, moves.
The penguins currently have to make a round trip of more than 120 km to feed in the sea after the giant slab of ice – which is the size of Rome – lodged near their home. This has lead to a catastrophic breeding failure.
In contrast, an Adélie colony in a different part of Commonwealth Bay, just eight kilometres from the edge of the sea ice, was thriving, the Guardian reported.
Known as B09B, the 97-kilometre long iceberg had moved around the Antarctic coast for 20 years before crashing into a glacier then grounding in Commonwealth Bay.
Researchers in an article in Antarctic Science said:
"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."
Co-author Chris Fogwill, of the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre, said there was some good news for the colony. "Over the last year the fast ice associated with B09B has begun to break up in Commonwealth Bay," he said. "The effects of the recent changes on the ecosystems in and around Commonwealth Bay will help us better understand the impacts of such large-scale events on the fragile Antarctic ecosystem," he added.
(All images courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)