Penguins as Marine Sentinels
An Oppenheim lecture held April 15, 2009 with Professor Dee Boersma.
From the tropics to Antarctica, penguins depend on predictable regions of high ocean productivity where their prey aggregate. Increases in precipitation, reduction in sea ice, and more frequent El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events associated with climate warming are affecting penguins. Of the 17 species of penguins 12 are rapidly declining and their distribution and abundance is shifting as well. Increasing human perturbations from climate change, petroleum pollution, fisheries, and tourism are political problems not easy to manage and reserves and protected area tend to be static. Punta Tombo is a case study in the increasing problems penguin face with climate variation, human perturbations, and tourism to visit their breeding colonies. Punta Tombo was colonized in the mid-1920s, reached a peak of over 300,000 pairs in the mid-1970s to early 1980s, then declined. In October 2006, Punta Tombo had 200,000 breeding pairs- a decline of 22% since 1987. Magellanic penguins at their largest breeding colony, Punta Tombo, Argentina, are swimming 60 km farther north from their nests during incubation than they did a decade ago very likely reflecting shifts in prey in response to climate change and reductions in prey abundance caused by commercial fishing. These temperate penguin species, are marine sentinels for southern oceans, demonstrate that new challenges are confronting their populations.
Published: Wednesday, April 15, 2009