According to a study of National Center for Scientific Research of France, one of the emblems of Antarctica, the king penguin, could become extinct due to climate change.
After a long time investigating the main mating habitats of the penguins, the researchers found that a small increase in the temperature in the Antarctic Ocean - caused by Hurricane El Niño - produced a massive damage to the survival capacity of this species.
If the predictions of the UN scientists are fulfilled and in the future the highest temperatures ever experienced in those waters are reached, the species will face its extinction.
King penguins, only surpassed in size by emperor penguins, live on the islands that lie on the banks of Antarctica, in the southern part of the Indian Ocean, with an estimated population of about 2 million breeding pairs.
It takes this entire species all 1 year to complete its reproductive cycle (including the courtship ritual). This makes them very vulnerable to a possible downturn in food reserves while they hatch their eggs and raise their young. Their diet consists mainly of small fish and squid that in turn feed on tiny crustaceans that are extremely sensitive to temperature increases.
The team of French researchers, led by Yvon Le Maho, studied 456 penguins in Possession Island belonging to the Crozet archipelago. The study was carried out between 1997 and 2006, being able to see the devastating effect of El Niño. After its passage, the temperature of the waters was increasing progressively, making food scarce. Due to the long reproductive cycle, the effects could only be perceived 2 years later.
Le Maho estimated that an increase of 0.25 degrees Celsius in the sea surface temperature translates into a 9% decrease in the chances of survival of an adult specimen.
According to the UN climate scientists group (winners of a Nobel Prize), the global average temperature will increase around 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade over the next 2 decades, as part of a greater warming cycle that will occur during this century
"Our findings suggest that, under current global warming predictions, king penguin populations are under a strong risk of extinction," says the scientist.
One more sample that should make us reflect on the damage we are causing to our planet and should help us to start taking action. What I don't know is if the cowboy Bush will read us.