Study says 65% of Antarctic species and penguins could disappear as global temperatures rise


It is only a matter of time before climate change and man-made pollution reach even the most isolated continent on the planet. As global temperatures rise, The pristine landscape of Antarctica is changing, and new research shows that most of the area’s plants and animals – including its iconic penguin – are in trouble.

The study was published Thursday in the journal Journal of Biology PLOS found that 65% of Antarctica’s native species, emperor penguin leading among them, will likely disappear by the end of the century if the world continues to operate as business as usual and unrestrained. fossil fuel emissions heat the planet.

The study also shows that current conservation efforts in Antarctica are not working in this rapidly changing continent. The researchers concluded that implementing an extra layer of cost-effective strategies they included in the study could save up to 84% of the vulnerable biodiversity in Antarctica.

“Antarctica doesn’t really contribute to climate change; not many people live there, so the biggest threat to the continent comes from outside the continent,” Jasmine Lee, lead author of the study, told CNN. “We really need global action on climate change, as well as some more local and regional conservation efforts, to give Antarctic species their best chance for survival into the future. future.”

Flock of emperor penguins waddling on the ice in Antarctica.

Antarctica’s geographical isolation has long protected the continent from the worsening effects of the climate crisis and other environmental disasters raging in the rest of the world, for example. like Forest fires, floods and droughts. Scientists have observed significant changes in its northern counterpart, the North Pole, which is Heats up four times faster than the rest of the planet.

But the impact of climate change is just started to appear in Antarctica. Recent data, examples, hints Antarctic sea ice is decreasing now faster than decades ago.

Thursday’s study found that disappearing sea ice threatens some seabirds, like emperors and Adélie penguin, rely on ice from April to December to nest their young. If the ice melts earlier or freezes later in the season, due to rising temperatures, the penguins will struggle to complete their breeding cycle.

“These iconic species, such as the emperor penguin and the Adélie penguin, are in danger and it is sad to think that Antarctica is one of the last great wildernesses on the planet and the effects it has. Human movements are being seen and felt there,” Lee said. “It’s extremely sad to think that we could push those species to extinction.”

Human presence and activity is also increasing in the area. Research shows scientific expeditions and infrastructure are expanding, while the number of annual tourists has skyrocketed more than eight times since the 1990s.

One private study from earlier this year suggests that the growing human presence in the area is causing more snow to melt. Scientists have found black carbon – the dark, dusty pollution that comes from burning fossil fuels – deposited in locations where people spend a lot of time. Even the smallest amount of this contaminant can have a significant impact on the melt.

Tourists take pictures of a Barbijo penguin on Half Moon Island in Antarctica in 2019.

While the threat to Antarctic species and its ecosystems is increasingly well-documented, policymakers still do not fully understand them, says Lee. And finding funds for conservation can be a challenge.

But the study offers some really cost-effective measures, with an estimated cost of $1.92 billion over the next 83 years, or about $23 million a year — a fraction of the economy. Global.

These strategies include minimizing and managing human activity, transportation and new infrastructure, as well as protecting native species while controlling non-native species and disease entry. area.

It also includes a focus on foreign policy, such as achieving broader international climate goals under Paris Agreement 2015aims to reduce planet-warming emissions and prevent a severe increase in global temperatures.

Adelie penguins on sea ice in East Antarctica in 2010.

“The benefits of doing something about climate change are good for people’s health, livelihoods and the economy,” Lee said. “The motive is there, but it’s just finding that initial investment, and it just depends on the priorities.”

Cassandra Brooks, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder who has done extensive research on marine animals in Antarctica, says the study is “timed and important” to draw attention to the extent How much biodiversity in Antarctica is being threatened.

Brooks, who was not involved in the study, told CNN: “This study builds on previous work that shows the urgency that policymakers need to take action on climate change, if at all. any opportunity to protect Antarctic biodiversity”. It “makes clear that current conservation strategies are not sufficient to do anything but support biodiversity loss.”

The latest study comes days after negotiators at the United Nations biodiversity summit in Montreal reached an agreement. landmark agreement to better protect the planet’s vital ecosystems, including a commitment to protect 30% of our land and oceans by 2030.

With the climate crisis now the most pervasive threat to Antarctica’s biodiversity, Lee said influencing global policy is needed now more than ever to save one of these biomes. pristine, vast creatures of the Earth.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Lee said. “We are at this major turning point not only for Antarctica but globally when it comes to climate. We have a chance to stop it, and if we don’t do something now, the effects will be far worse than they could have been.”


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