New, very short film from the E. O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation highlights threats to Adelie penguins from climate change, already. Actor and conservation activist Harrison Ford narrated “Ghost Rookeries, Climate Change and the Adelie Penguin.”
Details from the Biodiversity Foundation at their YouTube site:
Published on Jun 26, 2013
“Ghost Rookeries,” narrated by actor, conservationist, and member of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation (EOWBF) Board of Advisors Harrison Ford, conveys the story of the Adelie Penguin, whose habitat—and thus the biodiversity of all of Antarctica—is being threatened by real-time environmental changes.
“The consequences of a loss of biodiversity could encompass everything from altering key Antarctic marine food chains to the loss of species that may hold cures to cancer,” writes Dr. James McClintock, whose recent book, ‘Lost Antarctica: Adventures in a Disappearing Land’ (Palgrave/MacMilllan, 2012), forms the basis of “Ghost Rookeries.”
The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation (EOWBF) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) will be embarking on an exciting new initiative beginning in the summer of 2013. Beginning with “Ghost Rookeries: Climate Change and the Adelie Penguin” (4 minutes, 2013), short videos produced by the EOWBF will be shown at select AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums located in the United States. With the vast reach of AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, “Ghost Rookeries” and future videos will be seen by millions of visitors.
Dr. Paula Ehrlich, President and CEO of the EOWBF, calls “Ghost Rookeries” and the partnership with AZA “. . . a wonderful way to engage audiences about the importance of preserving our biological heritage through story. The Adelie Penguin is an iconic story, a symbol, of the real-time effect of climate change on biodiversity.”
This film looks at a small part of the Adelie penguin population, on Torgerson Island, near Palmer Station. This population symbolizes the difficulties of dealing with climate change, or even knowing what the effects will be. Critics of pollution control to stop climate change argue that populations of all animals and plants will adapt. Indeed the last decade saw a rise in total numbers of Adelies across Antarctic waters, and Gentoo penguins have set up new colonies to avoid warming air and waters.
More careful watchers note problems, though. Warming air, and decreasing hard ice, brings more snow — nominally good, if one assumes the snow turns to ice. In this case, the snows are brief, and they melt quickly. It’s the cold meltwater that kills the chicks, drowning them. This may be counterintuitive, or even ironic, that warming causes a cold water seabird to drown, or die of hypothermia. Nature is stranger than we can imagine, and often strange enough that it defies the understanding of scientifically-dilettante politicians.
Generally the loss of ice is the biggest problem for penguins; specific populations face entirely different threats, however, depending on the local effects of climate change.
The film is a short project based off of the work of Dr. Jim McClintock, an almost-legendary Antarctic researcher based out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). McClintock published a book on his work last year that deals with many different aspects of climate change in the Southern Ocean and its continental land mass, Lost Antarctica, Adventures in a Disappearing Land.
- “Joey Kennedy: UAB scientist Jim McClintock’s adventures in Antarctica become a great read,” Birmingham News, Septermber 22, 2012
- Veteran journalist Steve Roberts interviewed Dr. McClintock on “The Diane Rehm Show,” September 18, 2012; listen here
- Lost Antarctica & Ghost Rookeries ~ Climate Change & the Adelie Penguin (mission-blue.org)
- Adelie Penguin (wildnatureanimals.wordpress.com)
- Adelie Penguins on the rise in Eastern Antarctica (blogs.abc.net.au)
- Adelie Penguin (introthewildlife.wordpress.com)
- Antarctica, Here We Come! (venitism.blogspot.com)
- Update, July 23: Here’s another story, from a few years back, suggesting that hypothermia plays a bigger role than I had imagined; National Geo story on penguins dying from unseasonable rains