The Call of the Emperor Penguin: Legal Responses to Species Threatened by Climate Change


Researchers have reasoned that sea-ice loss and glacial calving have been accelerated do to anthropogenic climate change. As a result, survival rates for certain species have declined.

Species like the emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri), which occupy icy territories, have had their habitats threatened by changing climatological conditions. A study, conducted by Global Change Biology and the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) asserts that emperor penguins should receive extra defense under the Endangered Species Act because their environments are undergoing shifts that directly affect their survival.

NOAAClimate.gov visual representation of Antarctica

The study simulates the effects that extreme climate events have on penguin populations. The evidence for the modeled simulations is derived from observational data captured by satellite records.

Emperor penguins live on Antarctica’s coastlines, which are especially sensitive to temperature changes. Mature emperor penguins rely on sea ice shelves for rest, as a refuge from aquatic predators, and as breeding grounds. Emperor penguins also require sufficient amounts of sea ice to raise their young. Declines in sea ice may be the reason that emperor penguins have been disappearing in various regions of Antarctica.

Conclusion

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, emperor penguin populations were subjected to breakages in sea ice that occurred before young chicks were prepared to swim. This unfortunately caused young emperor penguins to drown in both Halley Bay and Cape Crozier. Research on greenhouse gas emissions suggests that shrinkage in icy environments is expected to increase in the future. Penguin communities will continue to suffer as a result. The close relationship between emperor penguins and their environments is a quintessential example of how species are adversely impacted by a heating planet.


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