Risks to penguin populations analysed

Date:

Share post:

A major study of all penguin species suggests the birds are at continuing risk from habitat degradation. Writing in the journal, Conservation Biology, scientists recommend the adoption of measures to mitigate against a range of effects including; food scarcity (where fisheries compete for the same resources), being caught in fishing nets, oil pollution and climate change. This could include the establishment of marine protected areas, although the authors acknowledge this might not always be practical. A number of other ecologically based management methods could also be implemented.

Risks to penguin populations analysed
King penguins [Credit: Pete Bucktrout, BAS]

Populations of many penguin species have declined substantially over the past two decades. In 2013, eleven species were listed as ‘threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), two as ‘near threatened’ and five as ‘of least concern’. In order to understand how they might respond to further human impacts on the world’s oceans the scientists examined all eighteen species, looking at different factors where human activity might interfere with their populations. Forty-nine scientists contributed to the overall process.

They considered all the main issues affecting penguin populations including; terrestrial habitat degradation, marine pollution, fisheries bycatch and resource competition, environmental variability, climate change and toxic algal poisoning and disease. The group concludes that habitat loss, pollution, and fishing remain the primary concerns. They report that the future resilience of penguin populations to climate change impacts will almost certainly depend upon addressing current threats to existing habitat degradation on land and at sea.

The group of scientists recommends that the protection of penguin habitats is crucial for their future survival. This could be in the form of appropriately scaled marine reserves, including some in the High Seas, in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Dr Phil Trathan, Head of Conservation Biology at the British Antarctic Survey and the lead author of the study, said:

“Penguins and humans often compete for the same food, and some of our other actions also impinge upon penguins. Our research highlights some of the issues of conservation and how we might protect biodiversity and the functioning of marine ecosystems.

“Whilst it is possible to design and implement large-scale marine conservation reserves it is not always practical or politically feasible. However, there are other ecosystem-based management methods that can help maintain biodiversity and a healthy ecosystem. For example, the use of spatial zoning to reduce the overlap of fisheries, oil rigs and shipping lanes with areas of the ocean used by penguins; the use of appropriate fishing methods to reduce the accidental bycatch of penguins and other species; and, the use of ecologically based fisheries harvesting rules to limit the allowable catches taken by fishermen, particularly where they target species that are also food for penguins.”

The scientists believe their work will be of benefit to other studies of animal species, not just in the southern hemisphere, but the northern one too, where human impacts on the environment is even greater.

All 18 species of penguin were studied; Emperor and Adelie (Antarctica), King, Chinstrap, Gentoo, Macaroni, Royal, Southern Rockhopper, Northern Rockhopper (Sub-Antarctic), Little, Fiordland, Snares, Erect-crested, Yellow-eyed (Oceania), and African, Magellanic, Humboldt and Galapágos (Africa and South America).

Source: British Antarctic Survey [August 06, 2014]

ADVERTISEMENT

spot_img

Related articles

Greece’s debt mirrors crisis in cultural assets

Plato doesn’t live here anymore. A pack of feral cats chases the rodents that run past the Gypsy...

An erotic epigram on an ostrakon from Rhodes

Love as a burden and other “daemons”. This is the theme of an epigram found on an ostrakon...

More on Bournemouth University dig finds ‘significant’ Roman remains

A unique archaeological find uncovered near the site of a Roman villa in Dorset could help to shed...

Explosions of Jupiter’s aurora linked to extraordinary planet-moon interaction

On Earth, bursts of particles spewed by the Sun spark shimmering auroras, like the Northern Lights, that briefly...

Possible new lead in Peking Man fossils mystery

The memories of a World War II-era Marine have renewed hopes of solving one of the greatest archaeological...

New coral dating method hints at possible future sea-level changes

New evidence of sea-level oscillations during a warm period that started about 125,000 years ago raises the possibility...

Baby galaxies grew up quickly

Baby galaxies from the young Universe more than 12 billion years ago evolved faster than previously thought, shows...

Protecting megaliths to keep history alive

The district panchayat has prepared a project to protect historically significant megalithic sites and to open a historical...