Environment Climate change: Thousands of penguins die in Antarctic ice breakup

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As rapidly warming global temperatures help push Antarctica’s sea ice to unprecedented lows, it’s threatening the very existence of one of the continent’s most iconic species: emperor penguins.

Four out of five emperor penguin colonies analyzed in the Bellingshausen Sea, west of the Antarctic Peninsula, saw no chicks survive last year as the area experienced an enormous loss of sea ice, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Nature Communications Earth & Environment.

This widespread “catastrophic breeding failure” is the first such recorded incident, according to the report, and supports grim predictions that more than 90% of emperor penguin colonies will be “quasi-extinct” by 2100 as the world warms.

The researchers monitored five emperor penguin colonies in the Bellinghausen Sea, ranging in size from roughly 630 pairs to 3,500. Using satellite images from 2018 to 2022, they counted how many of the birds were present at these colonies during breeding season.

 
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