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  • Jenouvrier, S., H. Caswell, C. Barbraud, M. Holland, J. Stroeve, and H. Weimerskirch, 2009: Demographic models and IPCC climate projections predict the decline of an emperor penguin population. PNAS, 106, 1844–1847, doi:10.1073/pnas.0806638106.

Studies have reported important effects of recent climate change
on Antarctic species, but there has been to our knowledge no
attempt to explicitly link those results to forecasted population
responses to climate change. Antarctic sea ice extent (SIE) is
projected to shrink as concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse
gases (GHGs) increase, and emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri)
are extremely sensitive to these changes because they use
sea ice as a breeding, foraging and molting habitat. We project
emperor penguin population responses to future sea ice changes,
using a stochastic population model that combines a unique
long-term demographic dataset (1962–2005) from a colony in Terre
Adelie, Antarctica and projections of SIE from General Circulation
Models (GCM) of Earth’s climate included in the most recent
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment
report. We show that the increased frequency of warm events
associated with projected decreases in SIE will reduce the population
viability. The probability of quasi-extinction (a decline of
95% or more) is at least 36% by 2100. The median population size
is projected to decline from 6,000 to 400 breeding pairs over this
period. 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 GHGs and its effect on
Antarctic climate, evolution or migration seem unlikely for such
long lived species at the remote southern end of the Earth

Last Updated: 2009-03-12

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