JUNE 24, 2020
by Research Organization of Information and Systems
Researchers have been surprised to find that Adélie penguins in Antarctica prefer reduced sea ice conditions, not just a little bit, but a lot. As climate models project rapid reduction of the continent's sea ice over the rest of the century, this iconic polar predator could be a rare global warming winner. Their research findings are published on June 24, 2020 in Science Advances.
In recent decades, Antarctica has experienced a steady increase in the extent of its sea ice—frozen seawater—even as its polar twin, the Arctic, has suffered through a marked decrease. But this is not expected to last for much longer as the climate changes, with Antarctica also projected to see a decline in its sea ice, with all the consequences of such changes to the maritime habitat for the organisms that live there.
But such consequences aren't always negative.
Polar biologists have known for some time that Adélie penguins, the most common species of penguin in Antarctica, tend to see population increases during years of sparse sea ice and suffer massive breeding failures during those years with the greatest growth of sea ice.
But until now, researchers didn't really know why this happened. The handful of studies that made mention of the relationship between population growth and sea ice have only ever established a correlation, not a cause.