Unhappy Feet: Global Warming Threatens Penguin: Page 2

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The models take into account physical processes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and land surfaces.

"If sea ice declines at the rates projected by the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] climate models, and continues to influence emperor penguins as it did in the second half of the twentieth century in Terre Adélie, at least two-thirds of the colonies are projected to have declined by greater than 50 percent from their current size by 2100," Jenouvrier said. "None of the colonies, even the southern-most locations in the Ross Sea, will provide a viable refuge by the end of 21st century."

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The colonies located between the Eastern Weddell Sea and Western Indian Ocean showed the largest declines, while those penguin colonies in the Ross Sea would experience the smallest decline. Some 20 percent of emperor penguin colonies will be nearly extinct by 2100, the analysis showed.

Based on their research, the study's authors found that the emperor penguin, which is currently under consideration for inclusion on the U.S. Endangered Species Act, is fully deserving of endangered status due to climate change. Securing the species a spot on the endangered species list, the researchers believe, could both protect this iconic animal and set a precedent for how to protect other species that are also affected by climate change.

"When a species is at risk due to one factor — in this case, climate change — it can be helped, sometimes greatly, by amelioration of other factors," Caswell said in the statement. "That's why the Endangered Species Act is written to protect an endangered species in a number of ways — exploitation, habitat, disturbance, etc. — even if those factors are not the cause of its current predicament."

For instance, listing the emperor penguin as endangered could lead to improved fishing practices of U.S. vessels in the Southern Ocean, as well as provide an impetus for reduction in emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide across the globe, Jenouvrier explained.

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The researchers also point out that the Ross Sea, in the south of Antarctica, will be the last place impacted by climate change, and that conservation management strategies for emperor penguins should focus there.

The researchers also point out that the Ross Sea, in the south of Antarctica, will be the last place impacted by climate change, and that conservation management strategies for emperor penguins should focus there.

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