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Climate variability affects food for penguins and seals


Presentation summary for the IPY Science Conference 2010 in Oslo by Dr. Simeon Hill

A study of the marine ecosystem around the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia highlights the impact of climate variability on penguins and seals.

The small shrimp-like crustacean, krill, is one of the most important parts of the foodweb at South Georgia and elsewhere in the Antarctic. It is thought to be vulnerable to environmental variability and change. Evidence of this was observed through ecosystem monitoring work during the two summers of the International Polar Year period. During the first summer the local populations of penguins and seals were well-fed and healthy — there was plenty of krill in the sea, but in the second summer krill was scarce and many penguin chicks and seal pups starved.

Session information

Dr. Simeon Hill

Tel: (0)1223 221233

Tuesday 8 June @ 15.30
Session: T3-8

When krill are scarce smaller crustaceans called copepods thrive. These are too small for penguins and seals to find and eat, but these animals can feed on fish and larger plankton that, in turn, feed on copepods.

The model shows that, in the long-run, fewer penguins and seals can survive when krill are scarce because much of the energy that would be available in krill is used up by copepod-eating animals.