January 30, 2009
Can cuteness save the Emperor penguin? These adorable birds received plenty of attention when the documentary March of the Penguins was released in 2005, but this week came a study in PNAS that predicts the population could be near extinction by the end of the century. The cause is a familiar one—climate change. Their numbers are predicted to decline from about 6,000 breeding pairs to only 400 by 2100. The researchers write:
To avoid extinction, Emperor penguins will have to adapt, migrate or change the timing of their growth stages. However, given the future projected increases in [greenhouse gases] and its effect on Antarctic climate, evolution or migration seem unlikely for such a long lived species at the remote southern end of the Earth.
And this was only one of many depressing climate change studies released in the past week or so:
- Antarctica is warming at a faster rate than had been previously thought.
- The rate of tree death in the western U.S. has doubled in the past few decades, and scientists blame warming temperatures.
- Climate change could lead to a massive expansion of ocean dead zones.
- Scientists now say climate change is unstoppable.
- Want to keep reading? Find more of the sad stuff at A Few Things Ill Considered.
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