Posted on 11/06/2019 by Phillip Island Nature Parks
Happy Feet in a Hostile World? The Future of All Penguins Depends on Hands-on Management of threats
Penguins are one of the most iconic taxonomic groups of wild animals, in the same league as polar bears, humpback whales, orangutans, and giant pandas. Despite their broad public appeal, penguin populations face a wide range of threats.
A global review published this week in Frontiers of Marine Science highlighted that most observed population changes have been negative and have happened over the last 60 years. This authoritative study was a result of a collaboration of 24 penguin experts from all over the world.
“Today, populations of 11 out of 18 species of penguins are decreasing due to climate deterioration, overfishing, oil and plastic pollution and human disturbance near nesting sites. The penguins’ biggest challenge will be for some of them to survive in the next 50 years”, said Dr Andre Chiaradia, one of the leading authors of this review and a penguin biologist with the Phillip Island Nature Parks.
The review also sends a warning on emergent threats of pathogens and diseases to the health of penguins. The penguin immune system could be naïve to new pathogens that would lead to a slow population decline or even a catastrophic mass mortality event.
The disturbance to marine ecosystems by humans can cause dramatic changes in the foodweb.
“The commercial removal of some species can lead to an imbalance in the marine ecosystem. At several locations around the world, penguins and seabirds form part of the natural diet for male seals, explained Dr Rebecca McIntosh, a seal biologist with the Phillip Island Nature Parks and one of the co-authors of the review.
“With changing ecosystems, this balance can shift and negatively impact penguin populations. These species are meant to share the ecosystem; managing the human threats is the key to their continued coexistence.”
The study strongly advocates that in the context of climate change, habitat degradation, introduced exotic species and resource competition with fisheries, successful conservation outcomes will require new and unprecedented levels of science and advocacy.
“Successful conservation stories of penguin species across their geographical range have occurred where there has been a concerted effort across local, national and international boundaries to implement effective conservation planning”, concludes Dr Chiaradia.
The full article can be read here:
Roland Pick – Communications Executive
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