05 March 2012

Study predicts climate change will shift penguins' food sources

King penguins in the Crozet Islands.
Photo by ¡WOUW!. Some rights reserved.
SUBANTARCTIC - King penguins' main food sources will move south as climate change warms the sea surface, a new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B shows.

Scientists from CNRS in France used a long-term tracking dataset of king penguins breeding on the subantarctic Crozet Islands to understand and model where adult penguins forage while they are incubating and brooding chicks, and to predict how the warming of the southern oceans would affect their foraging distribution.

The models predict that the penguins' optimum feeding zones (associated with the polar front) will shift south by about 400 km by 2100. This means that the distance the penguins will have to travel to reach their main food sources would double.

This is bad news - unless the birds develop alternative foraging strategies or move to new breeding sites, such a shift in their foraging range would have a negative effect on the Crozet population in the long term. 

Source
Penguins' food goes south, 3 March 2012, Birdwatch

Proceedings of the Royal Society B citation
Péron, C, Weimerskirch, H and Bost, C-A. 2012. Projected poleward shift of king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) foraging range at the Crozet Islands, southern Indian Ocean. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.2705.

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