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Climate Change Causing Decline in Antarctic Penguin Population, says Researcher

Update from the Society for Environmental Journalists Conference in Miami

Photo by Maureen Nandini MitraMarine Biologist Kim Barnard talks to journalists via Skype from the Western Antarctic Penninsula.

Rising water and air temperatures in the Western Antarctic Penninsula (WAP) is significantly changing the region's marine ecosystem and affecting the marine food web, Dr. Kim Bernard, a marine biologist stationed in the region said in a Skype video interview from Antarctica at the Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference in Miami last night.

The WAP region is one of the few regions across the world experiencing the highest temperature increases at the moment. she said, and the effects of this are being felt all the way up the marine food chain starting with phytoplankton. Barnard said, phytoplankton, the microscopic plant-like organisms at the base of the marine food web, are "losing biomass" (ie., becoming even smaller) due to rising air and sea temperatures and melting sea ice in the region. This in turn is resulting in smaller numbers of krill, the tiny crustacean on which is a major food source for Adélie penguins (a penguin species common along the Antarctic coast. She said researchers were noticing a "much higher penguin chick mortality rate" and fall in the region's penguin population.


Today, I'm going diving in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to see some coral reef restoration work. Hope I can bring back some better news from there.

Maureen Nandini Mitra, Editor, Earth Island Journal.Maureen Nandini Mitra photo
In addition to her work at the Journal, Maureen writes for several other magazines and online publications in the US and India. A journalism graduate from Columbia University, her work has appeared in the San Francisco Public Press, The New Internationalist, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, The Caravan and Down to Earth.

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