Global climate change is upon us, and the visible effects are ubiquitous. One of the most temperature-sensitive organisms on earth, coral, is proving to be the litmus test in this contentious issue: bleaching (a process by which coral reefs lose their life-giving algae) has become more widespread in the past decades as sea temperatures rise, causing reefs to “’collapse catastrophically’” (Markey). Colder regions, too, are feeling the heat. In the Arctic, shrinking sea ice is disappearing at a rate of 11% per decade, which has depleted polar bear habitats and shortened their winter hunting season, resulting in malnutrition and population decline(Dvorak). Meanwhile, on the opposite pole, the Antarctic Peninsula’s temperatures are rising even faster, spurring heavier snowfall and a dramatic decrease in sea ice—40% less than in 1981(Eccleston). This has threatened the breeding grounds (and subsequent populations) of Emperor, Gentoo, and Chinstrap penguins, and most notably the Adélie penguins, whose population has declined by 65% in the past three decades(Eccleston).
Penguins now threatened by global warming
By Paul Eccleston
Published: 5:01AM GMT 11 Dec 2007, London Telegraph
Four species of penguin are facing a dual threat from loss of nesting sites and a shortage of food. All four species – Emporer, Gentoo, Chinstrap, and Adélie - have suffered dramatic drops in population, according to the Antarctic Penguins and Climate Change report. Global warming is happening much more quickly in some parts of the continent, particularly the north-west area of the continent known as the Antarctic Peninsula, where in the last 50 years temperatures have risen by about 2.5ºC - as much as five times the world average. The Southern Ocean has also warmed all the way down to a depth of 3,000m. In this area, an important breeding area for the penguins, sea ice has been forming later and receding earlier and covering a smaller average area each winter. Sea ice now covers 40...