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Sci Rep. 2016 Jun 29;6:28785. doi: 10.1038/srep28785.

Projected asymmetric response of Adélie penguins to Antarctic climate change.

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College of Earth Ocean and Environment, University of Delaware, 700 Pilottown Rd., Lewes, DE 19958, United States.
Stony Brook University, 113 Life Sciences Bldg., Stony Brook, NY 11794, United States.
NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Fisheries Science Center, c/o Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University Forrestal Campus, 201 Forrestal Road, Princeton, NJ 08540, United States.


The contribution of climate change to shifts in a species' geographic distribution is a critical and often unresolved ecological question. Climate change in Antarctica is asymmetric, with cooling in parts of the continent and warming along the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP). The Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) is a circumpolar meso-predator exposed to the full range of Antarctic climate and is undergoing dramatic population shifts coincident with climate change. We used true presence-absence data on Adélie penguin breeding colonies to estimate past and future changes in habitat suitability during the chick-rearing period based on historic satellite observations and future climate model projections. During the contemporary period, declining Adélie penguin populations experienced more years with warm sea surface temperature compared to populations that are increasing. Based on this relationship, we project that one-third of current Adélie penguin colonies, representing ~20% of their current population, may be in decline by 2060. However, climate model projections suggest refugia may exist in continental Antarctica beyond 2099, buffering species-wide declines. Climate change impacts on penguins in the Antarctic will likely be highly site specific based on regional climate trends, and a southward contraction in the range of Adélie penguins is likely over the next century.

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