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Changing climate, not tourism, seems to be driving decline in chinstrap-penguin populations
Date:11/14/2012

The breeding population of chinstrap penguins has declined significantly as temperatures have rapidly warmed on the Antarctic Peninsula, according to researchers funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The study indicates that changing climatic conditions, rather than the impact of tourism, have had the greatest effect on the chinstrap population.

Ron Naveen, founder of a nonprofit science and conservation organization, Oceanites, Inc., of Chevy Chase, Md., documented the decline in a paper published in the journal Polar Biology. Naveen and coauthor Heather Lynch, of Stony Brook University, are researchers with the Antarctic Site Inventory (ASI).

The paper's findings are based on an analysis of data collected during fieldwork conducted in December 2011 at Deception Island, one of Antarctica's busiest tourist locations.

"We now know that two of the three predominant penguin species in the peninsula--chinstrap and Adlie--are declining significantly in a region where, in the last 60 years, it's warmed by 3 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) annually and by 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) in winter," said Naveen. "By contrast, Gentoo penguins are expanding both in numbers and in range. These divergent responses are an ongoing focus of our Inventory work effort."

The ASI has been collecting and analyzing Antarctic Peninsula-wide penguin population data since 1994, and these new findings have important implications both for the advancement of Antarctic science and the management of Antarctica by the Antarctic Treaty nations. The United States is a signatory to the Treaty.

The Inventory is supported in part by NSF's Office of Polar Programs and also by public contributions. The project's fieldwork at Deception Island was assisted by a grant from The Tinker Foundation.

Through Polar Programs, NSF carries out its presidential mandate to manage the U.S. Antarctic Program,
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Contact: Peter West
pwest@nsf.gov
703-292-7530
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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