Date: Mon, 17 Feb 97 12:48:00 GMT From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Antarctic: Warmer temperatures Antarctic: Warmer temperatures change penguin numbers By Elisabeth Mealey, through AAP ABOARD ARCTIC SUNRISE, ANTARCTIC PENINSULA, Feb 17 AAP - A penguin biologist, who has been researching the effects of climate change on penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula for the past 20 years, has added further fuel to his theory that warmer temperatures are having a marked impact on the ecology of the area. In 1992, a team led by Dr Bill Fraser, of Montana State University in the United States, rocked the Antarctic science community by debunking the accepted view that increasing numbers of Chinstrap penguins on the peninsula were due to the reduced competition for krill from whales, due to whaling. Dr Fraser's team claimed that warmer temperatures and reduced sea ice were the real culprits for the decline in ice-dependent Adelie penguins and the increase in species which prefer open water, including Chinstraps. With the number of extremely cold winters going from four out of five 50 years ago to just one or two out of five now, the lack of winter sea ice has been marked. Now, Dr Fraser believes that changes in patterns of snow accumulation and increased cloud cover due to climate change have also contributed to the extinction of many Adelie penguin colonies on rocky islands near the United States National Science Foundation's Palmer Station. After analysing the Adelie penguin population decrease on Litchfield Island between 1975 and 1992, Fraser found that the 12 extinct colonies on the island all had a south-west aspect where most snow accumulates. Warmer winters and reduced sea ice have brought more snow to the area since sea ice blocks the exchange of water vapour with the atmosphere. Dr Fraser believes the frequency of years with open water has led to a gradual increase in snowfall in the area and a decrease in melting, due to the greater cloud cover. Because Adelies nest only on bare ground where neither snow nor melted snow wateraccumulate, they have been unable to reproduce in their usual colonies in the past two decades. In the period of research at Litchfield Island, 12 colonies - accounting for almost 60 per cent of the total - became extinct. Dr Fraser calls the combination of reduced sea ice and increased snowfall a "double whammy" for the dwindling Adelie population in his research area. "You've got more snow and less melt and Adelies can no longer, in some areas, access historical breeding habitat. "So the populations are being forced downward," he said. A look at other bird and mammal populations in the area also seems to confirm Dr Fraser's theory that reduced sea ice leads to an increase in non-ice dependant species. Giant Petrels, which prefer open water for fishing, have increased 100 per cent in the area since 1974 while elephant seals have increased by 300 per cent and fur seal numbers have skyrocketed from six breeding pairs in 1975 to 2,000 in 1995. For the past three weeks, the Greenpeace ship 'Arctic Sunrise' has been in the Antarctic Peninsula documenting the impacts of climate change.