Letter | Published:

Projected continent-wide declines of the emperor penguin under climate change

Nature Climate Change volume 4, pages 715718 (2014) | Download Citation

Abstract

Climate change has been projected to affect species distribution1 and future trends of local populations2,3, but projections of global population trends are rare. We analyse global population trends of the emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri), an iconic Antarctic top predator, under the influence of sea ice conditions projected by coupled climate models assessed in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) effort4. We project the dynamics of all 45 known emperor penguin colonies5 by forcing a sea-ice-dependent demographic model6,7 with local, colony-specific, sea ice conditions projected through to the end of the twenty-first century. Dynamics differ among colonies, but by 2100 all populations are projected to be declining. At least two-thirds are projected to have declined by >50% from their current size. The global population is projected to have declined by at least 19%. Because criteria to classify species by their extinction risk are based on the global population dynamics8, global analyses are critical for conservation9. We discuss uncertainties arising in such global projections and the problems of defining conservation criteria for species endangered by future climate change.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    et al. Extinction risk from climate change. Nature 427, 145–148 (2004).

  2. 2.

    et al. Climate change threatens polar bear populations: A stochastic demographic analysis. Ecology 91, 2883–2897 (2010).

  3. 3.

    et al. Demographic models and IPCC climate projections predict the decline of an emperor penguin population. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 106, 1844–1847 (2009).

  4. 4.

    et al. in IPCC Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis (eds Solomon, S. et al.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010).

  5. 5.

    et al. An emperor penguin population estimate: The first global, synoptic survey of a species from space. PLoS ONE 7, e33751 (2012).

  6. 6.

    , , & Mating behavior, population growth, and the operational sex ratio: A periodic two-sex model approach. Am. Nat. 175, 739–752 (2010).

  7. 7.

    et al. Effects of climate change on an emperor penguin population: Analysis of coupled demographic and climate models. Glob. Change Biol. 18, 2756–2770 (2012).

  8. 8.

    IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria (International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2012).

  9. 9.

    A global conservation system for climate-change adaptation. Conserv. Biol. 24, 70–77 (2010).

  10. 10.

    , & First recorded loss of an emperor penguin colony in the recent period of Antarctic regional warming: Implications for other colonies. PLoS ONE 6, e14738 (2011).

  11. 11.

    et al. Antarctic penguin response to habitat change as Earths troposphere reaches 2 degrees above preindustrial levels. Ecol. Monogr. 80, 49–66 (2010).

  12. 12.

    , , & Emperor penguins breeding on iceshelves. PLoS ONE 9, e85285 (2014).

  13. 13.

    et al. Effects of sea-ice extend and krill or salp dominance on the Antarctic food web. Nature 387, 897–900 (1997).

  14. 14.

    & Emperor penguins and climate change. Nature 411, 183–186 (2001).

  15. 15.

    , & Long-term contrasted responses to climate of two Antarctic seabirds species. Ecology 86, 2889–2903 (2005).

  16. 16.

    , & Environmental change and Antarctic seabirds populations. Science 297, 1510–1514 (2002).

  17. 17.

    Review of historical population information of emperor penguins. Polar Biol. 34, 153–167 (2011).

  18. 18.

    et al. The WCRP CMIP3 multi-model dataset: A new era in climate change research. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 88, 1383–1394 (2007).

  19. 19.

    , & Declining survival probability threatens the North Atlantic right whale. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 96, 3308–3313 (1999).

  20. 20.

    Ecological forecasts: An emerging imperative. Science 293, 657–660 (2001).

  21. 21.

    Impacts of climate change on avian populations. Glob. Change Biol. 19, 2036–2057 (2013).

  22. 22.

    Matrix Population Models (Sinauer, 2001).

  23. 23.

    , , & Effects of giant icebergs on two emperor penguin colonies in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. Antarct. Sci. 19, 31–38 (2007).

  24. 24.

    & Robustness and uncertainties in the new CMIP5 climate model projections. Nature Clim. Change 2, 1–5 (2012).

  25. 25.

    , , & Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 106, 1704–1709 (2009).

  26. 26.

    , & Twenty-first-century climate change commitment from a multi-model ensemble. Geophys. Res. Lett. 33, L07706 (2006).

  27. 27.

    & Natural climate variability and future climate policy. Nature Clim. Change 4, 333–338 (2014).

  28. 28.

    Nakicenovic, N. & Swart, R. (eds) in IPCC Special Report Emissions Scenarios (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2000).

Download references

Acknowledgements

We acknowledge Institute Paul Emile Victor (Programme IPEV 109) and Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises for TA penguin data and the modelling groups Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI) and the WCRP’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling (WGCM) for sea ice data. S.J. acknowledges support from CIRES Visiting fellowships, WHOI Unrestricted funds, the Grayce B. Kerr Fund and the Penzance Endowed Fund in Support of Assistant Scientists and H.C. acknowledges support from NSF Grant DEB-1145017, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and ERC Advanced Grant 322989. We acknowledge D. Besson and K. Delord for TA penguin data management, P. Trathan and P. Fretwell for making satellite population counts available for earlier analysis and D. Ainley, L. Desvilettes and J. Garnier for fruitful discussions.

Author information

Author notes

    • Julienne Stroeve
    • , Mark Serreze
    • , Christophe Barbraud
    •  & Henri Weimerskirch

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

Affiliations

  1. Biology Department, MS-50, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA

    • Stéphanie Jenouvrier
    •  & Hal Caswell
  2. Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, UMR 7372 CNRS/Universiré de La Rochelle, F-79360 Villiers en Bois, France

    • Stéphanie Jenouvrier
    • , Christophe Barbraud
    •  & Henri Weimerskirch
  3. National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado 80305, USA

    • Marika Holland
  4. National Snow and Ice Data Center, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA

    • Julienne Stroeve
    •  & Mark Serreze
  5. University College London, Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, Pearson Building, Gower Street London WC1E 6BT, UK

    • Julienne Stroeve
  6. Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, 1090GE Amsterdam, Netherlands

    • Hal Caswell

Authors

  1. Search for Stéphanie Jenouvrier in:

  2. Search for Marika Holland in:

  3. Search for Julienne Stroeve in:

  4. Search for Mark Serreze in:

  5. Search for Christophe Barbraud in:

  6. Search for Henri Weimerskirch in:

  7. Search for Hal Caswell in:

Contributions

This research was designed and coordinated by S.J., M.H., M.S., H.W. and H.C. Analyses were performed and coordinated by S.J. with the support of H.C. (demographic analysis), M.H. (climate models analysis), J.S. and M.S. (sea ice observations), C.B. and H.W. (emperor penguin observations). S.J. and H.C. contributed new analytic tools. Figures were created by S.J. (emperor penguin projections) and M.H. (sea ice maps). S.J., M.H. and H.C. wrote the paper. J.S., M.S., C.B. and H.W. contributed equally to the study. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Stéphanie Jenouvrier or Julienne Stroeve or Mark Serreze or Christophe Barbraud or Henri Weimerskirch.

Supplementary information

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2280

Further reading