An estimated 150,000 penguins have succumbed to death after getting stranded no thanks to an immense iceberg that settled at the coast of Antarctica six years back, said the journal Antarctic Science.
Coupled with increasing ice, the 1,120-m2 B09B iceberg, which is as big as Rhode Island, has cut down the food source of the animals and altered forever their habitat, stated a February report in the peer-reviewed journal that was published by Cambridge University Press.
An immense mass of water ice first struck into the penguins’ haven of Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay in 2010. Prior to that it was floating near the coast for almost two decades years before running into the bay. The iceberg basically has isolated the penguins, paving the way for the poor penguins to journey over a 40-mile stretch of land to search for food.
The once robust colony which used to have population of 160,000 has now plummeted to 10,000 penguins.
The research team stated, “The arrival of iceberg B09B in Commonwealth Bay, East Antarctica … has dramatically increased the distance Adélie penguins breeding at Cape Denison must travel in search of food.”
The population of the penguins has decreased significantly since 2011, said the Climate Change Research Center at Australia’s University of New South Wales.
The outlook for the Cape Denison Adelie penguins remains grim. Unless the colossal iceberg will be shattered by sea ice, scientists project that the colony will banish in 20 years.
There are around 5,500 couples which are still breeding in the region, but there has been a substantial decrease in their population compared with 100 years ago, stated the estimates hinged on satellite images and a census that was conducted in 1997.
For now, the penguins are not heading into their extinction as there is a colony which thrive around five miles away from the Commonwealth Bay, which prompts scientists to reckon that the iceberg has had a direct effect of the species that is now isolated. Around 30 percent of the Adelie penguin population thrives in East Antarctica.
The study on the iceberg’s impact on the Adelie penguins can provide scientists understanding into the broader implications on the impact brought about by an increasing sea ice in the area.
Continuing environmental changes are anticipated for the Southern Ocean, which will possibly have an impact into predatory marine animals, said a 2015 report published in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Evolutionary Biology. Ecological changes due to climate change could stimulate major changes in the breeding habitats of the animals, the food source in a marine ecosysten and the accessibility of prey for bigger predators
The continuing melting of glaciers or deglaciation, plays a key role in the decline of Adelie penguins’ population over the past 1,000 years, said the scientists. But while changes in sea ice can directly have an impact into the species, scientists state it’s crucial to keep on monitoring the penguins’ population over a longer period of time.