As climate change threatens the emperor penguin’s pack ice habitat, the US Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday announced a proposal to list the species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. disappearance.

WASHINGTON – As climate change threatens emperor penguin sea ice habitat, the US Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday announced a proposal to list the species as endangered under the Species Act endangered.

“The life cycle of emperor penguins is linked to stable ice floes, which they need to reproduce, feed and moult,” said Stephanie Jenouvrier, penguin ecologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Research published Tuesday in the journal Global Change Biology found that by 2100, 98% of emperor penguin colonies could be on the verge of extinction, if no changes are made to current rates of carbon emissions and of climate change.

About 70% of the colonies will be in danger sooner, by 2050.

That year, the seasonal pack ice broke before the penguin chicks had time to develop waterproof adult feathers, and about 10,000 chicks drowned, Jenouvrier said. The colony did not recover afterwards.

Emperor penguins breed exclusively in Antarctica during the winter. They withstand temperatures of minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 40 degrees Celsius) and wind speeds approaching 90 miles (144 kilometers) per hour by huddling together in groups of several thousand birds. But they can’t survive without enough sea ice.

“These penguins are hit hard by the climate crisis, and the US government is finally recognizing this threat,” said Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity.

The US government has previously classified species outside the country as threatened, including the polar bear, which lives in arctic regions and is also threatened by climate change and sea ice loss.

Emperor penguins – the largest penguins in the world – currently number around 270,000 to 280,000 breeding pairs, or 625,000 to 650,000 individuals. The proposed listing will be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday to open to a 60-day public comment period.

The bird’s listing offers protections such as a ban on importing them for commercial purposes. The potential impacts on penguins also need to be assessed by US marine fisheries currently operating in Antarctica.

“Climate change, a priority challenge for this administration, is impacting a variety of species around the world,” said Martha Williams, senior deputy director of the wildlife department. “The decisions made by policymakers today and over the next several decades will determine the fate of the Emperor Penguin.


Follow Christina Larson on Twitter: @larsonchristina


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