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Climate change

Emperor penguin population is in peril due to vanishing ice

Disappearing sea ice in Antarctica is putting emperor penguins at risk of extinction, researchers warn.

"The population is declining," says Hal Caswell, senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and an author of a new study in Nature Climate Change. "Unless something changes to stop that, the population will go into extinction."

By 2100, the entire population could decrease by one-third, with all 45 of the known emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica taking a hit. The biggest drops will happen on the coasts of the western Indian Ocean and eastern Weddell Sea, The Guardian says.

The main food source of penguins is krill, and young krill eat the algae on ice; as the ice is lost, the supply of krill drops. The researchers say that one way to help the penguins would be putting them under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. Also, "given this new research, and what we already know about global temperatures warming and the changing climate," says Andrea Kavanagh, director of global penguin conservation for the Pew Charitable Trusts, the U.S. should immediately "put a marine reserve in place so we can make sure we are not fishing in areas where the penguins need to forage for food."