Category Archives: Climate Change

60% of Adélie Penguins Could Disappear This Century

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New research shows that climate change may vastly devastate Adélie penguin colonies by 2099. Nearly two-thirds of the penguins, which live only in Antarctica, could be gone within this century due to warming sea surfaces not conducive for penguin chicks. In a Scientific Reports study, researchers warned that the excessive warmth linked with climate change is extremely harmful to the species. “It is only in recent decades that we know Adélie penguins population declines are associated with warming, which suggests that many regions of Antarctica have warmed too much and that further warming is no longer positive for the species,” lead author Dr. Megan Cimino said.

Adélie penguin colonies are centralized across the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), among the fastest-warming places on Earth, and populations have already shown declines in response. More than any other region, WAP has faced warmer than normal sea surface temperature in recent years, a condition known as “novel climate”. According to Cimino, penguin numbers have decreased by around 80% since significantly higher temperatures were noted. “These two things seem to be happening in the WAP at a higher rate than in other areas during the same time period,” Cimino noted.

Climate projections reveal that this region will continue to experience increasingly frequent years of novel climate this century, presenting a threat that could ravage already-fragile penguin populations. Researchers examined a wide range of global climate models and satellite data, as penguin colonies can now be seen and studied from space. Based on their findings, 30% of current Adélie penguins could disappear by 2060, and 60% could be gone by 2099.

Intriguingly, researchers found that in areas where climate change is slow, Adélie numbers are “steady or increasing”, further strengthening the link between climate change and Adélie decline. Scientists hope that these slow-to-warm spots will become refugia, or places for once widespread but now isolated animal populations to survive, even if that survival remains tenuous. East Antarctic peninsula Cape Adare, is one such spot where climate changes have been less extreme. Said Cimino, “The Cape Adare region of the Ross Sea is home to the earliest known penguin occupation and has the largest known Adélie penguin rookery in the world. Though the climate there is expected to warm a bit, it looks like it could be a refugium in the future, and if you look back over geologic time it was likely one in the past.”

Extrapolating on current climate change patterns, these scientists predicted surviving Antarctic penguins will concentrate in southern Antarctica over the next century.

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Source: Worley, Will. “Climate change ‘to devastate penguin populations in Antarctica by up to 60 per cent by the end of the century’.” Independent. 29 June 2016

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GOOD NEWS, OUR OZONE LAYER IS ON THE MEND!

The hole in our ozone layer over Antarctica caused major concern for the future of our planet when it was first discovered in 1984. This discovery lead to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, a treaty signed by almost every nation that focused on eliminating the use of chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) chemicals in an attempt to save the planet’s protective layer.

Today, over three decades after the discovery of the shrinking ozone layer, we are seeing improvements to the ozone layer proving the success of the treaty. Although these improvements are minimal considering the 1.5 million square miles of ozone that shrunk between 2000 and 2015, the hopes of saving our planet are looking more like possibilities.

EnvironmentTypical_Crowded_Beachalists and scientists from around the world were majorly concerned with the effects that the shrinking ozone could have on our planet. The ozone layer, high in the stratosphere, protects Earth’s life from absorbing the Sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. With the depletion of ozone, mostly caused by the release of CFCs and other chemicals from refrigerants and propellants, the UV radiation was predicted to cause major health issues to humans. Skin cancer, cataracts, and eye damage were just some of the health concerns.

NASA analyzed the situation in 2009 and simulated the result of a continuously shrinking ozone layer had the Montreal Protocol not been signed. Their simulation showed that by mid-century, the ozone layer would be completely depleted from Earth, and at noon on a summer day the UV index would be so damaging that visible sunburn could be seen on skin within just 10 minutes.

Thankfully, this is no longer a concern. Improvements to the ozone layer are just one example of the success from society’s joint efforts and mutual concerns to directly target an issue. The Montreal Protocol’s accomplishments should engage society to take a harder look at how the issue of Global Warming can best be solved. While the shrinking ozone layer triggered a ban to the use of CFCs, the focus for Global Warming needs to be on the release of carbon into the atmosphere from coal, gas, and oil burning. This shows the success of collective efforts and treaties like the Montreal Protocol to generate change and give us all hope of living in a cleaner and healthier planet.

Source: “Ozone Hole Shows Signs of Shrinking, Scientists Say.” Henry Fountain. NY Times. June 30, 2016.

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First Mammal Made Extinct by Manmade Climate Change

YWQ4NzExMzNjNyMvbExMbWZqTEg5NUxOckZBUFdTaldMTDE1c1prPS8weDM6OTAweDQ0OC85MDB4NDQ2L2ZpbHRlcnM6cXVhbGl0eSg3MCkvaHR0cDovL3MzLmFtYXpvbmF3cy5jb20vcG9saWN5bWljLWltYWdlcy92d3JhZ2FsZ2psbndwcDRmY29zMGN5cDZwb2FlZ2d6dmRmdHRyN29ocSource: Queensland Government

Queensland, Australia environmental researchers reported that the Bramble Cay melomys, a rodent species found on a small island in the eastern Torres Strait, appears to have been completely eradicated from its only known habitat. Also called the mosaic-tailed rat, this tiny creature marks the first mammal that has disappeared due to human-caused climate change, though experts warn it will likely be the first of many: a 2015 report noted that ⅙ of the world’s species are in danger of climate change-based extinction.

This melomys was the only mammal species native to the Great Barrier Reef, and in 1845 European sailors first noticed the rats living in high density around Bramble Cay, a small coral cay on Queensland’s north coast. The island is a significant wildlife hotspot, and remains the most important breeding ground for green turtles and several seabirds within the Torres Strait.

In 1978 the melomys population was estimated at several hundred, though they were last seen in 2009, leading to an extensive 2014 search for the creature. Since then, a report led by Ian Gynther from Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, in partnership with the University of Queensland, has recommended the species be labelled extinct.

As part of their search, researchers laid 150 traps on the island over six nights, and thoroughly examined the vegetation they typically inhabit for signs of life. After no evidence that any Bramble Cay melomys’ remained, the report’s authors concluded that extensive flooding due to rising sea levels was the “root cause” of the extinction, killing many animals and destroying 97% of their habitat from 2004 to 2014. Around the Torres Strait, sea levels have risen at twice the global average between 1993 and 2014. “For low-lying islands like Bramble Cay, the destructive effects of extreme water levels resulting from severe meteorological events are compounded by the impacts from anthropogenic climate change-driven sea-level rise…Significantly, this probably represents the first recorded mammalian extinction due to anthropogenic climate change,” the authors noted.

The Queensland government website suggests that attempts to restore the population are futile. “Because the Bramble Cay melomys is now confirmed to have been lost from Bramble Cay, no recovery actions for this population can be implemented,” it says. However, the report’s authors hold out hope that there might be an undiscovered population of the creatures in Papua New Guinea. They posit that several melomys may have initially arrived at Bramble Cay by floating over on debris from the Fly River region of New Guinea. Thus, the authors recommend surveying Papua New Guinea to see if the rodents or their close relatives could be living there.

Ecologist John White of Australia’s Deakin University said this extinction marks the beginning of a long battle for wildlife conservationists: “I am of absolutely no doubt we will lose species due to the increasing pressures being exerted by climate change,” he said. “Species restricted to small, low lying islands, or those with very tight environmental requirements are likely to be the first to go…Certainly, extinction and climatic change has gone hand in hand throughout the history of the world,” he said. “So, if this is one of the first, it is more than likely not going to be the last.”

3d653a26-0746-4ed6-8347-abc2db35753e-1920-1080Source: CAMERON DEJONG/FLICKR/CC2.0

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