Tue, May 10, 2011 - Page 14 News List

Young penguins dying due to lack of food
乏食物來源 南極企鵝餓死

African penguins play in the sea in Simon’s Town near Cape Town, South Africa, on March 16.
非洲企鵝三月十六日在南非開普敦附近的賽門港內嬉戲。

Photo: AFP
照片:法新社

Young penguins in the Antarctic may be dying because they are having a tougher time finding food, as melting sea ice cuts back on the tiny fish they eat, US researchers suggested on April 11.

Only about 10 percent of baby penguins tagged by researchers are coming back in two to four years to breed, down from 40-50 percent in the 1970s, said the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Chinstrap penguins, known for their characteristic head markings that resemble a cap with a black line just under the neck, are the second largest group in the area after the macaroni penguins, and are at particular risk because their population is restricted to one area, the South Shetland Islands.

“It is a dramatic change,” lead researcher Wayne Trivelpiece, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division, told AFP.

“There are still two to three million chinstrap pairs in this region but there were seven to eight million two decades ago,” he said.

Trivelpiece was a co-author on a study published in 1992 that suggested penguin populations were surging and subsiding according to changes in sea ice — with the chinstrap doing better in warm years and the Adelie thriving in cold years.

However, Trivelpiece and his co-authors now believe that krill are the real culprit for the disappearing penguin populations, and the damage affects both types of penguins.

Krill needs ice to survive, and as climate change causes more polar sea ice to melt, the tiny sea creatures cannot breed or feast on phytoplankton in the ice and their numbers fall, taking away an important source of nourishment for penguins.

(AFP)

美國研究人員四月十一日表示,因南極海洋冰層融化致使小魚數量銳減,在當地的小企鵝可能因覓食不易而死亡。

科學家在《國家科學院學報》指出,科學家所標記的小企鵝中,只有百分之十在二至四年後回來繁殖,大幅少於一九七零年代的百分之四十到五十。

帽帶企鵝頭部有狀似一頂帽子且脖子下方有黑色線條的紋路,故以頭部特徵聞名。牠們是該區第二大族群,僅次於馬可羅尼企鵝。但由於其棲地侷限在南雪特蘭群島,所以牠們面臨嚴重的生存危機。

國家海洋與大氣管理局南極生態系統研究組的主要研究員偉恩‧特里佛皮斯告訴法新社:「這是戲劇性的大變化。」

他說:「雖然該區仍有兩百萬至三百萬對帽帶企鵝,但二十年前有七百萬至八百萬對。」

特里佛皮斯曾是一篇一九九二年發表的研究的合著者,此研究認為企鵝的數量隨著海洋冰層的變化而增減,帽帶企鵝在溫暖的年份較易生存,而阿德利企鵝則是在較冷的年份。

然而,特里佛皮斯與其他合著者現在相信南極磷蝦才是造成企鵝數量遞減的元凶,而且其傷害波及這兩種企鵝族群。

磷蝦需要冰才能存活,但由於氣候變化導致極地海洋冰層融化與日俱增,這個小小的海洋生物無從在冰層中繁殖或是覓食浮游植物,以致於其數量減少,也因此剝奪了企鵝重要的營養來源。

(法新社/翻譯:林亞蒂)

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