Changing climate threatens Adélie penguins

(AAP / file)
(AAP / file)

The population of Antarctica's Adélie penguins is likely to drop by a third by 2060, according to a new projection examining the effect climate change has on the species.

The effect of climate change on Antarctica is varied due to its sheer vastness. The effects differ across the pole - while some areas are cooling, others are rapidly warming.

One of the areas that's warming at an alarming and disproportionate rate is the West Antarctic Peninsula. And it's more than just melting the ice and raising sea levels - it's also having an effect on the animals and ecosystems.

In a paper published in the Nature journal on Wednesday, the scientists notice a trend in populations of Adélie penguins in areas affected by climate change.

Some populations have dropped by 80 percent.

Changing climate threatens Adélie penguins

(AAP / file)

Adélie penguins have breeding colonies across most of the continent, but a large chunk of them are concentrated on the West Antarctic Peninsula.

Unlike the emperor penguin, Adélies nest on rocky, snow- and ice-free terrain. So they aren't losing nesting territory when the ice and snow melts. Their habitat is swamped by water, drowning eggs and small chicks.

Climate change is linked to not just the snow melting but also increased rainfall, both of which threaten the young birds.

Their diet is also affected. While krill doesn't appear to be harmed by the warming temperatures, the same can't be said for the Antarctic silverfish.

A decline in silverfish has been linked with the climate changes affecting the West Antarctic Peninsula.

Changing climate threatens Adélie penguins

(AAP / file)

The paper predicts climate change could reduce the populations of a third of Adélie colonies by 2060.

It is predicted 60 percent of the populations will be affected by 2099.

"Colonies with decreasing populations experienced significantly more years with novel climate than populations that were increasing in abundance ... suggesting recent warming effects are detrimental to Adélie penguin populations."

Human impacts such as tourism, pollution and fishing weren't accounted for in the population trends.

Newshub.