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Stephanie Avants

INTS 311
Thomas Wood
October 13, 2016
Emperor Penguins and the Surrounding World
Emperor penguins have been up-listed to the near threatened list since 2012
(Aptenodytes). Although they are not endangered yet, they are on their way there with the

chances of becoming extinct over the next 100 years. In addition, ecotourism has been affecting
species all over the Antarctic continent, but also has some beneficial factors as well. Over the
years, climate change and ecotourism have been affecting emperor penguins and their food
sources, and some laws have been formed to protect the species and land in which they inhabit.
Climate change is affecting Emperor penguins in many ways including habitat, food, as
well as migration. Emperor penguins live on the Antarctic peninsula, which is located on the part
of the continent jutting out by South America. This area contains the fastest ice melting. Because
of this quick melting rate, the peninsula is shrinking in size. With the ice melting at a quick rate,
the results can be detrimental to the penguins. The sea-ice season is also shorter due to the
melting (NASA). Sea ice is extremely important for young penguins. Young lack waterproof
feathers during early stages of life, and are often times swept into the ocean and die because they
lack these feathers. As a result, the penguin population will be affected due to the lack of sea ice
helping protect the young (Wolf). Adults are affected as well with a lower food availability. Sea

ice gives the species a clear access to the ocean waters to find food to sustain themselves. Having
a lower food availability will affect the penguins ability to find food for themselves, as well as
their young to help maintain the population (Wolf).
Food sources are depleting. A major food source of Emperor penguins are krill. Krill are
now declining as much as 80%. The decline of krill is in correlation with the decline of the sea
ice. With the decline of sea ice, the krill cannot graze on the algae which grows on the bottom of
the sea ice resulting in the loss of krill. Continuation of the melting of the sea ice will cause
further food decline. Researchers are projecting if the seas surface temperature increase 1C
within this region, the krill population could be reduced further as much as 95%. If this were to
take place, the penguins will have to search for other food sources in order to survive (Wolf).
Sea levels are rising and ocean acidification are threatening coastal nesting grounds.
Ocean acidification is also known as anthropogenic carbon emissions which causes the
declinations of the pH of seawater. The Southern Ocean, or the waters surrounding Antarctica, is
rich with CO2 meaning the waters are low with saturation of carbonate (Kapsenberg). Carbonate
is important to creatures such as plankton, coral, and clams for they use it to form their shells
(Wolf). Krill is another example which are being affected by this carbonate chemistry, yet little is
known about the effects the ocean acidification will have (Kawaguchi). It is hard to predict the
carbonate chemistry due to other environmental processes taking place within the area; however,
within the Southern Ocean, aragonite undersaturation, or a pH of less than or equal to 7.9, is
predicted to take place during a winter season over the next 20 years (Kapsenberg).

Ocean acidification is a phenomenon which is considered to be toxic to many marine

species; however, research is showing predictions these marine animals can begin to tolerant
ocean acidification after being exposed for long periods of time (Kapsenberg). With the decrease
in seasonal sea-ice, and the changes with the temperature, the levels of acidification rise. The
Ross Sea, for example, can see an increase as much as 14% due to these factors by about 2100.
Ocean acidification is also caused by greenhouse emissions which threaten the entire food web
which includes species from plankton to as much to penguins (Kapsenberg).
Climate change is also affecting the migration of the Emperor Penguins. From January to
March the summer time ice is beginning to break up and the penguins are heading to sea to binge
eat on krill squid, and fish (Emperor Penguin Migration). The male penguins especially binge eat
during this time as it will be the last time they will eat until the end of winter. At the end of
March, the females will lay one egg. This egg is then given to the male partner to incubate over
the long winter months for a total amount of about 9 weeks. The females will then return to the
ocean to feed over the winter.
Through the use of satellite imagery and aerial surveys, researchers have found four
penguin colonies which have moved their breeding area away from the sea ice which they are so
heavily reliant upon (Arce). These penguin colonies have begun to adapt to the increasing
climate change which surrounds them and have moved their breeding area to floating sea ice
shelves. Peter Fretwell of the British Antarctic Survey states,
Whats particularly surprising is that climbing up the sides of a floating ice shelf
which at this site can be up to 30 meters [98 feet] high is a very difficult maneuver
for emperor penguins. Whilst they are very agile swimmers they have often been thought
of as clumsy out of the water (Lippman).

During this harsh winter season, the males will remain in the cold and rotate in a penguin
huddle to remain warm. Meaning the penguins on the outside layer will work their ways towards
the middle of the huddle and inside penguins will work their way outward so everyone can get
warm (Society). There are about 5,000 penguins in each group (ARKive). Another way to
remain warm are the features built onto the Emperor penguin. The feathers on each penguin are
scale-like, and are tightly packed in multiple layers. The only way to really ruffle a penguins
feathers is through an extremely harsh wind. Prevention of heat loss are also through the
Emperor penguins extremities. Their heads are small, and their bills are relative to the body size.
Emperor penguins are also given strongly clawed feet which are beneficial for gripping the ice.
Having these features are important to maintain their homeostasis (Entertainment).
During the month of August, the eggs begin to hatch. At this time, the females will return
back from the ocean to find their mate. With the male embracing the cold, harsh winter for
several months, he has not been able to feed. After the female finds him, she will begin to
babysit their young, and he will go out to eat as the last time he did so was prior to winter. As the
chick starts to grow, female and male switch watching the chick so they each can feed. When the
chick can join the huddle, they feed the same time as the parents. Feeding at the same time is
easier on the parents instead of having to switch babysitting the chick so each parent can take
turns feeding.
Lastly, spring time is important to the chick. This is the time when the chick will molt
their feathers into their waterproof ones. The molting process takes a total of 34 days. These

waterproof feathers are important to the survival of the chick especially if they fall into the
water. The sea ice begins the melting process again. After the ice starts the process of melting,
the chicks first journey to the ocean with their parents will begin. Sea ice is needed for the
young due to the lack of waterproof feathers. If the chicks have not fully molted their feathers,
they are at risk of being swept out to sea (Society).
Ecotourism first took place in Antarctic as a tourist flight in 1956 (Hall). Number
increased in the 1980s when about 15,209 paying tourists went to the freezing continent
(Fennell). Annually, Antarctica receives about 26,500 visitors which visit several sites including
the Antarctic Peninsula, and the South Shetland Islands (Bertellotti). Although there is little
evidence, there is a common perception that penguins are not affected by large groups of human
beings in close proximity; however, the penguins could show both a behavioral and
physiological response to the visitors. These responses could negatively affect the breeding
habits of the penguins, as well as their survival especially during the nesting period (Bertellotti).
People crave capturing pictures of the penguins and when doing so can harm the penguins by
being so close.
Another factor is the unintentional introduction of pathogenic agents which ecotourism
brings. The Emperor Penguin population do not have an immune adaptation to pathogens in
which they could be exposed to by the human population. Ships are required to follow strict
cleaning rules to help alleviate this issue; however, carrying pathogens is still an imminent issue
that cannot be ignored. Speaking over long term, the penguins population could be affected and
see a decline (Bertellotti).

Boris Wise states, All visitors leave a footprint and we all tend to go to the same places
-the accessible coastline- which is also where the penguins and seals go to breed. Nonetheless,
carefully controlled tourism is not just ok, but useful (Rix). He continues on explaining how
penguins are a flagship species and Antarctica does not have a native population of its own and
needs tourism to get people involved in supporting the cause of preservation of the species as
well as the Antarctic region. A flagship species is a species in which is selected to act as an
ambassador to bring attention to a habitat, issue, or environmental cause (Merriam-Webster).
Continually, Wise points out in 2015 season, they were expecting 37,000 tourists in Antarctica,
but 10,000 of them would never go ashore. The tour ships which bring tourists to the Antarctic
region, about half, are flagged to specific countries belonging to those countries who have signed
the Antarctic Treaty. The Antarctic Treaty is a law for nations in which was written to help
maintain the continents natural resources and more. Because these countries have signed the
Antarctic Treaty, the document makes them legally bound to the environmental standards (Rix).
Ships which bring tourists to the Antarctic area never dock. Instead, the ship will anchor
off shore, and go ashore by a bio-secured dinghy. When on the coast tourists are instructed not to
eat, or smoke and to take nothing but pictures while leaving nothing behind. At this point,
tourists are not allowed to go less than 5m near to any wildlife they may encounter (Rix).
Some argue it is solely global warming changing the outcome of the penguins fate;
however, some tourist ships are beginning to offer different activities which may counter that
argument. Kayaking, mountaineering, and diving are a few activities which are taking interest
with the public and are considered more invasive to the species than just simply looking onward

and taking photos. This is potentially problematic to the species, although the effects are not
clear and more researching needs to be done.
Having these activities taking place so close to the species could be problematic by
increasing death to the population. Not only will these species be seen so closely like an ant
under a magnifying glass, the chances of disease increasing in the species could take place as
well. Although, the ships need to maintain safe, and clean environments to help alleviate
pathogens, being so close to the penguins could still lead to the species catching disease.
Kayaking with penguins could also pose a threat to the species. If a penguin is within the water
at the time an individual is kayaking, they are risking hitting them with the oars posing injury to
the penguins (Rix).
There are several laws which are in relation to the Antarctic regions as well as Emperor
Penguins. These environmental laws were made to protect species as well as the land in which
the species lives. Emperor Penguins are considered to be near-threatened. Near-threatened
species are a species which may be considered threatened with extinction in the near future, but
does not currently qualify as a threatened status.
One law which is in place is The Antarctic Treaty. This treaty was signed by all 12
nations in 1959 protecting Antarctica and its living resources. Some of these nations included
Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, and the United Kingdom (ATS). The main goal of the treaty
is to make Antarctica used for peaceful purposes only and make the continent a military free
zone The Antarctic Treaty also makes it illegal to harm, or interfere with penguins and its eggs

(Antarctic). If a penguin specimen is to be collected it must be pre-approved and reported with

the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR). The treaty also wanted to continue
scientific cooperation as well. Since this original signing, 34 more countries have signed the
treaty today. Countries such as the United States, Belgium, Germany, and more joined the treaty,
but did not put forward any specific claims (Antarctic).
The Antarctic Treaty also provides specific observers to which they will carry out
inspections throughout the entire continent of Antarctica including all the stations, installations,
equipment, ships, and aircraft where they will be discharged or embarked. Each of these
observers has access at any time throughout all the areas of the Antarctic region (Antarctic).
In Article XI, if there is ever a dispute between two or more parties concerning the
interpretation of, or application of the treaty, the parties need to consult amongst themselves to
resolve the dispute through negotiation, judicial settlement or other means by discretion of the
parties. This article helps maintain the peace throughout the Antarctic region, maintaining the
demilitarized zone, and scientific cooperation (Antarctic).
Under the Endangered Species Act in section three subsection six states, the term
endangered species means any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a
significant portion of its range other than a species of the Class Insecta determined by the
Secretary to constitute a pest whose protection under the provisions of this Act would present an
overwhelming and overriding risk to man (Endangered Species Act Section 3).

Although the emperor penguin is not an endangered animal, it is on it is on its way to

becoming extinct over the next century and should therefore be taken into account on what ways
to prevent the extinction of the emperor penguins. Ecotourism is beneficial in providing tourists
knowledge on species and ways to give these individuals a more concrete, visual representation
of why the species and the environment needs conservation. Although some species are adapting
to breeding on the ice shelf instead of the sea ice, not all the penguins are making a quick
adaption to the lack of sea ice to match the rising rate of climate change. With both ecotourism,
and climate change affecting the emperor penguin species in the Antarctic region, conservation
efforts must be put into effort now to be sure the species does not go extinct like it is forecasted
to do so in the next 100 years or so. Thankfully, laws are being put into place to help protect
these animals, and their habitats, to help assist in the conservation efforts (Bertellotti).
Ecotourism and climate change are affecting emperor penguins by the way of their food
sources, and the environment in which they inhabit. Although there are laws in place to help
protect these species, there are still issues in which the effects are unknown. There is an
ecological footprint starting to form because some of these issues are not resolved, and can have
permanent effects such as extinction of the emperor penguins. Despite the fact that there are
some beneficial aspects to the ecotourism in Antarctica, the overall outcome needs to be more
positive than negative, and have less effects on the species involved (Bertellotti).

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