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Penguins setting off sirens over health of world's oceans
Date:6/30/2008

hanging climate also appears to be key in the decline of Galapagos penguins, she said. As the atmosphere and ocean get warmer, El Nio Southern Oscillation events, which affect weather patterns worldwide, seem to occur with greater frequency. During those times, ocean currents that carry the small fish that the penguins feed on are pushed farther away from the islands and the birds often starve or are left too weak to breed.

These problems raise the question of whether humans are making it too difficult for other species to coexist, Boersma said. Penguins in places like Argentina, the Falklands and Africa run increasing risks of being fouled by oil, either from ocean drilling or because of petroleum discharge from passing ships. The birds' chances of getting oiled are also increasing because in many cases they have to forage much farther than before to find the prey on which they feed.

"As the fish humans have traditionally eaten get more and more scarce, we are fishing down the food chain and now we are beginning to compete more directly with smaller organisms for the food they depend on," she said.

As the world's population continues to explode and more and more people live in coastal areas, the negative effects are growing for both marine and shore-based habitats used by a variety of species. There is an urgent need to begin monitoring those negative impacts, Boersma said.

"I don't think we can wait. In 1960 we had 3 billion people in the world. Now it's 6.7 billion and it's expected to be 8 billion by 2025," she said. "We've waited a very long time. It's clear that humans have changed the face of the Earth and we have changed the face of the oceans, but we just can't see it. We've already waited too long.

"The Discovery Channel and public television are very popular for their nature programs, and those featuring penguins are especially popular. But we don't want to just have them in our television sets. We want to
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Contact: Vince Stricherz
vinces@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert  

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