Oh No: Global Warming might Force Penguins to Move

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

If we don’t immediately shut down global CO2 emissions, by the end of the century some Penguins might have to move to different islands – otherwise they’ll die!

As climate change worsens, king penguins will need to move — or they’ll die

‘I’m worried about the future of the species.’

If we don’t cut greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change, then by the end of the century, 70 percent of king penguins could face a tough decision: either find a new home or die, according to new research.

King penguins live on islands scattered throughout the Southern Ocean, the waters surrounding Antarctica. The birds can swim as far as 310 miles (500 kilometers) to feed on lanternfish, squids, and krill in a food belt circling the continent. But climate models show that this food belt will move closer and closer to the South Pole, forcing the penguins to swim farther to catch their meals. By 2100, the penguins are expected to migrate to other islands or as many as 70 percent of them could disappear, according to a study published today in Nature Climate Change.

“Wow,” says Michelle LaRue, a research ecologist at the University of Minnesota, who was not involved in the study. “That’s not something I would have expected.” Unlike their closest relatives, the emperor penguin, king penguins don’t live on sea ice. In fact, they only live on ice-free islands. So in a warming world, you’d expect penguins that don’t need ice to breed to fare just fine, LaRue tells The Verge. But today’s study shows that the cascading effects of climate change are incredibly complex and can affect species in a variety of ways.

Read more: https://www.theverge.com/2018/2/26/17044798/climate-change-king-penguins-survival-relocation-southern-ocean

The abstract of the study;

Climate-driven range shifts of the king penguin in a fragmented ecosystem

Robin Cristofari, Xiaoming Liu, Francesco Bonadonna, Yves Cherel, Pierre Pistorius, Yvon Le Maho, Virginie Raybaud, Nils Christian Stenseth, Céline Le Bohec & Emiliano Trucchi

Range shift is the primary short-term species response to rapid climate change, but it is often hampered by natural or anthropogenic habitat fragmentation. Different critical areas of a species’ niche may be exposed to heterogeneous environmental changes and modelling species response under such complex spatial and ecological scenarios presents well-known challenges. Here, we use a biophysical ecological niche model validated through population genomics and palaeodemography to reconstruct past range shifts and identify future vulnerable areas and potential refugia of the king penguin in the Southern Ocean. Integrating genomic and demographic data at the whole-species level with specific biophysical constraints, we present a refined framework for predicting the effect of climate change on species relying on spatially and ecologically distinct areas to complete their life cycle (for example, migratory animals, marine pelagic organisms and central-place foragers) and, in general, on species living in fragmented ecosystems.

Read more: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0084-2

Penguins swim hundreds, even thousands of miles throughout their lives. Even if global warming occurs as rapidly as alarmists fear, I somehow doubt a gradual migration which occurs over a period of 80 years would be a major stress factor.

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62 thoughts on “Oh No: Global Warming might Force Penguins to Move

  1. I read earlier this year that penguins were starving because the water in their feeding areas was freezing and so they couldn’t catch fish. That is the only reason for which I can foresee penguins moving! So much for global warming a.k.a. climate change!

    • Maybe the Grauniad (aka The UK’s ever so green Guardian newpaper) gives the actual reason for the lack of food for the penguins. It leds with its usual chant of “it’s Climate Change” but then adds overfishing as a reason as well. So if. there is the lack of food this is more likely to be the reason. Hence the need to create a marine park in the aea

    • Well the western Atlantic sea turtles have been swimming to the Azores for millennia, swimming a little farther each year due to spreading along the Atlantic Rift Zone. Needing to swim a little farther each year is how the species becomes hardier. It’s often referred to as evolution or adaptation.

    • Or they could just adapt like most species do, it’s all on them. The biggest problem is keeping the greenies away so they can decide which they want to do.

  2. Would anyone be worried about penguins moving if they didn’t think the warming was caused by anthropogenic CO2?
    I tend to doubt it.
    Penguins are just another opportune hammer to be used to beat industrial civilization.
    I propose we name such things figueres, as in, we’re being figueresed over again; this in honor of Christiana the wrecker wanna-be.

      • Gored means stabbed by the horns, antlers or tusks of a wild animal.
        But, it also fits for Al’s actions as well in that it is an undesired assault by a dumb angry animal.
        There are family names that have made it into common usage as verbs and nouns, some originally pejoratively. One such is “Silhouette”. Étienne de Silhouette was the French minister of finance in 1759. His economic policies were so despised that his name was associated with anything made cheaply, such as the inexpensive ink-shadow portraits of the day, which were bestowed the epithet of “silhouettes”.
        https://www.etymonline.com/word/silhouette

    • Interesting chart Bill. Over at JoNova the inhabitants of Perth have been complaining of a cold summer and the water temperature offshore in WA is definitely cooler than along the East coast . And what is brewing up off the coast of Peru?

    • 10 000 – 50 000 years ago, the MSL was 130 meters lower. Did they penguins climb up 130 meters each trip to their breeding grounds?

      • So coral must be a fairly recent entry. MSL130 meters lower and water much warmer. Both things harmful to coral.

      • Very funny… 😉
        During the last ice age, the Penguin colonies were probably closer to the equator. And if the same islands were populated, the breeding grounds were simply 120 m further down. What’s the problem?

  3. I was afraid, sad, scared and demoralized until I read this! We are saved. Yeah!

    By 2100, the penguins are expected to migrate to other islands

  4. Research ecologists, do you know why emperor penguins trek 75 miles over ice to reach their breeding grounds? Do you know why king penguins refuse any food that you did not approve? Do you know, how difficult it is for a penguin to discover a new island? I predict that all penguins will die, just like polar bears.

  5. These are King penguins, God forbid we consider Adelies or Chinstraps. Essay No Bodies in ebook Blowing Smoke puts the factual lie to this nonsense.

  6. I just don’t have the bandwidth to cry as much for the penguins as I have for the those poor polar bears. What’s next…puppies?

  7. One has to know little, might even be a help, about penguins to question a serious flaw in the study, at least as shown by the abstract.
    “Here, we use a biophysical ecological niche model validated through population genomics and palaeodemography to reconstruct past range shifts and identify future vulnerable areas and potential refugia of the king penguin in the Southern Ocean……….for predicting the effect of climate change on species relying on spatially and ecologically distinct areas to complete their life cycle (for example, migratory animals, marine pelagic organisms and central-place foragers) and, in general, on species living in fragmented ecosystems.”
    I thought this was about the king penguin, which couldn’t operate very well like most of those other alleged species including the mosquitoes, honeybees, mountain plants, and gray whales in papers cited. I guess the king penguin is the Antarctic ‘canary’ good enough for the whole world.
    Need to read the paper to be sure, but the study appears to fit the long known model of ad hockery–picking an ad hoc theory and beating it to death. (Peters, R. H. 1991. A Critique for Ecology. Cambridge Univ. Press.) He also published this (Peters, R. H. 1976, Tautology in evolution and ecology. American Naturalist. 110(971):1-12.). Both worth reading.

    • I think the Guardian article concentrated on the penguin part of the research because that’s what gets readers. The actual research looks to me like it uses the case of the penguins as a “model” for how other animals might respond to global warming in a situation where their habitat is fragmented and they must move because of resource scarcity. What might happen if there weren’t islands to go to where the food was? Some migratory animals go to the same place generation after generation to breed; how will they respond when that is no longer adequate? The genomic work helps identify how often their lineage changed islands, I suppose (I’ve only read the abstract), giving insight into their adaptability. It could be a good paper – it’s often a good sign if it’s mocked around here, where published science is repeatedly mocked and castigated while people play at being scientist and others believe it credible because it comes with math, a pretty graph and statistics (who cares if they are invalid)?
      Ecology and evolution aren’t usually ad hoc; the same patterns are found again and again, and it’s those patterns that are interesting. It’s often only feasible to study one or a few organisms or relationships at once, but they are representative of others (though maybe not yet identified); comparisons, meta-analyses and reviews are a ways of examining them together to look at wider patterns. Based on patterns, one can begin to predict relationships in other organisms, which allows you to test them. Then again, there are some delightfully strange relationships out there, like the sea cucumber that eats a plant and incorporates the DNA for photosynthetic capabilities into its own DNA, becoming photosynthetic itself – but even studying that could shed light on, for instance, a new way of inserting DNA into a chromosome.
      I tend to think the study of ecology and evolution are rather misunderstood. Many people don’t know what “ecology” means; it’s often confused with environmental science.
      What’s an “alleged species”?
      I began reading the “Tautology in evolution and ecology” paper. I don’t know if it’s because it’s so old, but I disagree with his main points. Both evolution and ecology have predictive powers and are testable. His definition of “evolution” is not adequate; there’s more than fitness to it, and fitness includes reproductive capacity. Kind of lost interest after the 7 axioms, which seemed odd to me. Maybe the book is different; I’d like to hear a thoughtful critique of ecology.

  8. Can anyone tell me if it was a king penguin that exploded on top of the television set in the Monty Python skit (season 2, episode 9)?

  9. This crying penguin, or crying whatever, is just getting more stupid by the day.
    There are way too many ‘researchers’ and far too much funding for the available number of valid or remotely significant questions. What an endless waste of resources that could be put to far better use.

  10. Of course penguins move. There was a colony on the island of Tierra del Fuego around 6,000 years ago, then for a few centuries there wasn’t, now there is one again.
    http://www.fsexpeditions.com/tierra_del_fuego/king_penguins_of_tierra_del_fuego.php
    I went there a few years ago (just happened to be driving past!) and there were maybe 15 King Penguins. Now there are 100 or so. Small beer, compared to what’s on South Georgia, The Falklands and Antarctica, but it shows they can and do move.

  11. The late great Sam Kinneson nailed it (originally about starving Ethiopians) – If you really want to help them, don’t send them food, send them luggage . Mooove! Go to where the food is!

  12. King penguins can adapt to a wide range of weather conditions. Several subantarctic islands such as the Crozet Islands, Kerguelen, Falkland, Macquarie, Prince Edward, South Georgia and South Sandwich harbor their colonies. Some locate in southern Chile, and Argentina and solitary individuals have been spotted in Brazil, Uruguay, and South Africa as well as in the Antarctic continent.
    Snowy and misty mountains enclose king penguins’ habitat most of the time, but they reside in warmer places with green landscapes and rocky coasts as well. On those locations, the weather is not extremely hostile. http://cdn.penguins-world.com/wp-content/uploads/king-1.jpg

  13. Don’t know why they’re so worried about penguins adapting the polar bears are going to eat them all anyway (sarc)

    • First time I’ve seen this, what a hoot! I knew something was up when the narrator was Terry Jones instead of David Attenborough.
      I wonder if when this was posted that it fooled a great number of the credulous.

  14. King penguins are about the least threatened of any penguin species. They are very numerous (>2 million pairs), they have a large distribution with numerous colonies on many different islands and they are apparently not very dependent on any specific prey species. They have increased strongly in recent decades. Recently they have even started breeding on the chilean part of Tierra del Fuego, which seems a somewhat odd move if they are under pressure from increasing heat:
    http://songoftheroad.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/ChileTierraDelFuego_33_KingPenguinsWideShot.jpg
    This is really amazing habitat for king penguins. Usually it looks more like this (Salisbury plains South Georgia):
    https://d2gg9evh47fn9z.cloudfront.net/800px_COLOURBOX4746196.jpg

  15. BBC radio in full-on hysteria mode this morning more like the headless chickens their reporters are than the much more intelligent penguins they are worried about.
    I recall that the King penguins are the last surviving land species from Antarctica before it drifted over the southern pole and evolved to deal with their changing conditions?
    But now they are suddenly all going to give up and die to support more twerpy alarmist/BBC extinction drivel.
    Apparently more nonsense about the Great Barrier Reef is planned by the increasingly uninformed BBC this afternoon in some idiot programme entitled “Costing the Earth”. Tells you all you need to know.

  16. The paper admits that king penguins wen through a severe reduction 20,000 years ago when it got colder, and the BBC admits that king penguin populations are increasing. They say they are “rebounding ” from hunting but that ended some time ago.
    So populations fall when it is colder, populations now are increasing, but the model that assumes a bunch of changes will happen and that those changes will be bad for populations, shows it will be bad.

    • Who hunted penguins? For what purpose, food, feathers, webbed feet? (collectors for zoos and aquatic theme parks?) Are they including natural predation from orca and leopard seal “hunters”?
      The accounts from Shackleton’s stranded expeditions record that penguins, while edible, are not very tasty. But, I suppose one could acquire a taste for almost anything if pressed hard enough.

      • C’mon, Rocket!
        “Who hunted penguins? For what purpose, food, feathers, webbed feet? (collectors for zoos and aquatic theme parks?) Are they including natural predation from orca and leopard seal “hunters”?”
        We all know it was the polar bears!
        As it got warmer, they migrated to the Arctic. And the penguins thrived.
        Gums…

  17. “But today’s study shows that the cascading effects of climate change are incredibly complex and can affect species in a variety of ways.”
    Gee, as a layman I don’t see this theory as “incredibly complex”. I must be missing something.

    • so one trace gas controls this “incredibly complex” theory ??? I take it “incredibly complex” in this case means “we tortured the model until it gave us the answer we wanted” …

    • Did you read the Nature paper? I couldn’t get past the paywall. If not, maybe you are missing something.

  18. Wasn’t it a couple/few years ago it was too warm in their antarctic breeding grounds but too cold in their Southern tip of Africa to breed?

  19. “It depends which kind of Earth you want to live on in the future: empty or full of nice species around us.”
    Heh. I think these people inhabit a completely different sort of place; one where the sun never shines.

  20. There is no real evidence that CO2 has any effect on climate and plenty of scientific reasoning to support the idea that the climate sensifity of CO2 is zero. Appaently the Penguins made it throuth the previous intergalcial period, the Eemian, which was warmer then the current intergalcial period with more ice cap melting and higher sea levels. They made it through the cool down to the last ice age, the ice age itself and the warm up to the Holocene maximum which was warmer than today. Today’s climate change seems trivial when compared to the past. The climate change is happening so slowly that the species has plenty of time to adapt.

  21. “But today’s study shows that the cascading effects of climate change are incredibly complex and can affect species in a variety of ways.”
    This hasn’t happened yet. Don’t these obtundent clones know that, so far, nothing has happened. They talk about it as if it was all around us and it is only electron sprites sporting and gamboling in a virtual fantasy world. The study shows nothing. It speculates. I came across a King Penguin moulting in a cave near sea level on the the southern coast of New Zealand near Balclutha/Papatowai. When the estuary was flooded by high tide, my late father-in-law and I used to go flounder spearing wearing waders and carrying a lantern and a burlap bag over our shoulders for the fish. The esturary was full of fish large and small and I’m sure my moulting penguin was doing fine re the vittles. I’m a Manitoba prairie boy so this was quite exotic to me, also digging cockles and pippis (shell fish) in the sand after tide went out. We would put the live shellfish into pails with some groats (sand-like cut oats) so the critters would evolve out the sand and take on the oats to remove grit from the feast.

    • Oh, but Gary, there are things happening. You won’t believe it, so of course things won’t make sense to you. The world will make less and less sense, the people will seem to lie more and more, and you will become ever more confused, paranoid and angry by the world around you.
      The feed fish populations have dropped dramatically in the Pacific off the West Coast, and they suspect it’s due to the “warm blob” that’s sitting there (or was, I don’t know if it still is). Maybe climate change maybe not, but these are the kinds of things are predicted, and it’s not ridiculous to anticipate changes in the south.
      Have you read the paper?
      I haven’t, but I’m sure it goes far beyond what’s on verve or verge or whatever

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