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Is global warming a threat to the survivability of the King Penguin?

The King Penguin may be under heavy extinction risk as a consequence of global warming according to an article recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.   The authors of this study examine a potential effect of increasing sea temperature on the survivability of King Penguins. 456 King Penguins were fitted with electronic tags during the austral summers in 1997/98 and 1999/2000 so that their survival and breeding could be monitored remotely. This activity was correlated to Southern Oscillation Index changes and changes in local sea surface temperatures (SST) and Chlorophyll-a (Chl-a) concentration over the years of the study.   The published study presents 9 years of data including 6 years of breeding success and 8 years of adult survival. Increasing sea temperatures have historically been correlated with decrease in food abundance (Chl-a)  With a reduction in Chl-a the breeding adults are forced to forage for food further a field which may have a negative effect on the breeding success of newly hatched chicks and the ability of the adults to replenish lost fuel reserves after the breeding fast.   Results are presented to show that the probability of survival, and breeding, of King Penguins is reduced when the SST was high in the marginal ice zone 2 years previous which may be linked to the reduction in prey populations.   The recent 2007 IPCC report predicts an approximate .4C increase in global surface temperatures over the next 2 decades potentially putting further pressure on the survivability of this upper trophic level predator.   Céline Le Bohec, Joël M. Durant, Michel Gauthier-Clerc, Nils C. Stenseth *, Young-Hyang Park, Roger Pradel, David Grémillet, Jean-Paul Gendner, and Yvon Le Maho, King penguin population threatened by Southern Ocean warming PNAS 105 (7) 2493-2497, 2008   * EUR-OCEANS AssociatedScientist Additional link www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/0712031105/DC1 Wikipedia entry and images of the King Penguin here



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