Warmer temperatures in the Antarctic could threaten penguins, whales, seals and a host of smaller creatures, a marine biologist warns in a lecture to be given at Christmas. Lloyd Peck, of the British Antarctic Survey, argues that even a small rise in sea temperatures could have dramatic consequences.
"Antarctic animals -- in the sea especially -- are very sensitive to climate change and they are the early warning system for the loss of species on the planet. We should be watching for those because climate change is probably going to get rid of them before it gets rid of other species," he says.
"We know things are changing; it is going to be really unpleasant; we are going to lose things -- we just don't know how much," he said.
Peck, 47, a scuba diving expert on the strange fauna of the south polar seabed, will deliver this year's UK Royal Institution Christmas lecture, backed by film from Antarctica. The Christmas lectures for young people were founded by the physicist Michael Faraday in the mid-1820s and have been televised since 1966.
His message is that important species in the freezing southern seas are so sensitive to temperature shifts that they could perish in a world only a couple of degrees warmer.
"We take clams out of the sediment and let them bury themselves again. We take limpets off the seashore, turn them over and let them turn back again. If you warm them up by about two degrees or so from their normal summer temperatures, they lose the ability to do those functions," he says.
Antarctic krill, the tiny shrimp-like creatures that flourish in their billions, are also at risk. In winter, krill depend on thick mats of green algae that flourish on the underside of ice shelves which extend out of the polar darkness into the sub-Antarctic light.
As the oceans warm, the winter ice will retreat, and the algae will vanish.
"If one of the key species in the system goes, then very quickly you'd lose a lot of the system. And that would affect penguins, seals and whales. The fishery areas around the Antarctic would be affected," he said.
"So the animals that everybody is interested in -- the furry ones with big eyes, the penguins, the whales -- there is potential for them to be affected very quickly by the loss of a few species in the Antarctic food chain," Peck said.
The Antarctic continent is still cold. But the Antarctic peninsula, home to the British research bases, has warmed by up to 3?C in the last 50 years.
"We have seen big losses of ice shelves and glaciers, recession of ice, and have seen new habitable areas for animals on the Antarctic peninsula," Peck said.
"On this trip I saw grass growing in areas that I have not seen grass before. I am seeing mosses and animals on land that was covered in ice just five or 10 years ago," he said.
Seals and penguins are adapted to dramatic seasonal changes in temperature and travel huge distances for food. But polar life is unforgiving, and small cyclical shifts in temperatures in the equatorial Pacific already cause huge losses to penguin colonies further south.
"When you have low krill stocks the penguins die, and they die when the chicks get to fledgling age. The time when the chicks need food most is just when they are about to go to sea. If the food supply is not enough, you can have 95 percent or 99 percent mortalities in a couple of weeks," Peck said. "The whole place goes from a mass of penguin chicks to a big mass of dead bodies all over the place."
Peck was born in 1957, the son of a steel foundry worker, and he still isn't quite sure how he became a marine biologist in the world's emptiest continent.
"My mother and father were desperate that I wouldn't work in a heavy industry. My father would say to me, `If you work down the pit or in a steel foundry when you are grown up I am going to cut your hands off,'" he said.
He became fascinated by how animals use energy. The Antarctic proved to be the perfect laboratory, because its denizens have to cope with extremes. So, of course, do its scientists.
"The whole world is just flat and white for as far as you can see in all directions and the air is so clear that you could see a mountaintop 50 or 60 miles away, and it is so quiet that you can have a conversation with somebody a quarter of a mile away because there is no background noise," he said.
"On a still day, it is a really surreal world. And then the wind blows, and the snow starts to whip off the ice, and you can't see anything," he said.
"Visibility is about two meters, so you just stay inside," he said.
Hon Hai Precision Industry Co founder Terry Gou (郭台銘) might be accused of twice breaking his promises and betraying the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), then launching a signature drive for himself to stand as a candidate in January’s presidential election, only to turn around and quit the race. It clearly shows that rich people are free to do as they like. If that is so, then Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) is the perfect example of a political hack who changes his position as easily as turning the pages of a book. Taiwanese independence supporters
Since the rancorous and histrionic breakup of the planned “blue-white alliance,” polls have shown a massive drop in support for Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), whose support rate has dropped to 20 percent. Young people and pan-blue supporters seem to be ditching him. Within a few weeks, Ko has gone from being the most sought after candidate to seeking a comeback. A few months ago, he was the one holding all the cards and calling the shots, with everything in place for a rise to stardom. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was still dealing with doubts
It has been suggested that Vice President William Lai (賴清德), the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential candidate, is certain to win the presidency now that the “blue-white alliance” plan has fallen apart. Lai had been polling in first place with a healthy margin separating him from the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), and Taiwan People’s Party Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲). Expectations were that he would win handily unless his opponents pooled their resources. Now that the three candidates are in their respective corners, the gloves are likely to come off. Lai
US think tanks, societies and organizations have recently not been shy or hesitant to get involved in Taiwanese matters; they seem to do so with an apparent purpose. Earlier this month, Simona Grano, a senior fellow on Taiwan at the New York-based Asia Society, penned a lengthy and thorough primer on Taiwan’s elections next month. In her primer, Grano noted that Washington had “reservations” about all four (now three after Terry Gou [郭台銘] dropped out) candidates for the presidency. With these reservations, one senses a clear change and expansion of purpose from the Asia Society. Originally formed in 1956 by John