Good news for penguin fans. The global population of penguins has boomed in the last 20 years, despite warnings from environmentalists that penguin numbers would dwindle as global warming melted the polar ice caps.
New reports, however, show these predictions were wrong. The latest reports indicate the number of pairs of Adélie Penguins have increased 53 percent in the last 20 years and the total pairs of Emperor Penguins have increased between 36 and 76 percent during the same time.
A census done by US researchers shows the Adélie Penguin “breeding population 53% larger (3.79 million breeding pairs) than the last estimate in 1993.” The global census was published earlier this month by the American Ornithologists’ Union.
The census also adds that “Adelie Penguin declines on the Antarctic Peninsula are more than offset by increases in East Antarctica.” Eastern Antarctica has seen huge increases in sea ice coverage which provide food for penguin colonies in the south pole.
A similar trend has occurred among Emperor Penguins, who have seen their global population grow from between 135,000–175,000 pairs two decades ago to about 238,000 pairs in 2009. A population census published in 2012 used satellite imagery to find “four new colonies and confirmed the location of three previously suspected sites giving a total number of emperor penguin breeding colonies of 46.”
“We estimated the breeding population of emperor penguins at each colony during 2009 and provide a population estimate of ~238,000 breeding pairs (compared with the last previously published count of 135,000–175,000 pairs),” researchers reported in 2012.
The authors of the Emperor Penguin census acknowledged that global warming could impact future penguin populations, but stressed that more data was needed to make accurate population estimates.
“There is a growing consensus in the literature that global and regional emperor penguin populations will be affected by changing climate, a driver thought to be critical to their future survival,” the census authors wrote. “However, a complete understanding is severely limited by the lack of detailed knowledge about much of their ecology, and importantly a poor understanding of their total breeding population.”
News of increasing penguin populations come against the backdrop of record levels of Antarctic sea ice coverage — in particularly in the eastern part of the frozen continent — and warnings from scientists and environmentalists that penguins could die off as the world becomes warmer.
Environmentalists and global warming alarmists, like Al Gore, have claimed that penguin populations are in deep trouble due to global warming.
“In recent years, the loss of sea ice in this part of Antarctica has led to a dramatic decline in the phytoplankton and devastated the krill,” Gore wrote in 2012. “As a result, the population of Adelie penguins has declined 80% in the northwestern Antarctic Peninsula over the past 30 years.”
“The Antarctic Peninsula, where half of the world’s emperor penguins and 70% of the Adelie penguins can be found, is heating up faster than the global average and melting the sea ice that the penguins depend on for places to breed and access to food,” says the World Wildlife Fund.
A recent study estimated that at least two-thirds of Emperor Penguin colonies will see their populations halved if temperatures rise by rates predicted by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“If sea ice declines at the rates projected by the IPCC climate models, and continues to influence emperor penguins as it did in the second half of the 20th century in Terre Adélie, at least two-thirds of the colonies are projected to have declined by greater than 50 percent from their current size by 2100,” said Stephanie Jenouvrier, a biologist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the study’s lead author.
“None of the colonies, even the southern-most locations in the Ross Sea, will provide a viable refuge by the end of 21st century, she added.
But so far, penguin populations are booming amid and the Antarctic is seeing record levels of sea ice coverage. Furthermore, global temperatures have not been trending upwards in more than 17 years — in fact, there has been a slight cooling trend.
“Global penguin numbers have increased dramatically over the past 20 years, despite global warming worries that expecting penguin stocks to be decimated,” the “skeptical environmentalist” Bjorn Lomborg wrote on Facebook.
“Of course, Al Gore only focuses on *one* tiny part of the Antarctic (less than 4% of the land area), the Antarctic Peninsula,” Lomborg said. “And the WWF tell us that ‘climate change is a growing concern’ for emperor and adélie penguins that live in Antarctica.”
“Their models show that global warming can cost us 50-75% of them all over the next 40 years. Yet, the past 20 have seen remarkable increases,” Lomborg added.
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