As ocean and air temperatures warm, there will be less ice available in Antarctica, affecting Antarctic penguins. The emperor penguin relies on the ice, using it as a platform to hatch and raise chicks, according to LaRue. “And for both Adelie and emperor penguins, it’s a problem because the key prey species in the Southern Ocean – krill – relies on sea ice for its habitat.” Thus, less ice means less krill and less food for penguins.
Rising temperatures impact penguin species differently because some species, notably South American and African penguins, have adapted to deal with much warmer temperatures, LaRue noted. “So, physiologically they can deal with warmth better than emperor penguins can.” In those cases, it’s changes in ocean currents and distribution of prey caused by the warming waters that would probably affect the penguin population more than anything else.
The effects of changes in the penguin’s ecosystem are already seen, especially in some of the warmer (than the Southern Ocean waters) where penguins exist. The decrease in population is not good for ocean and coasts health, and it may be a sign of serious environmental problems.