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For Already Vulnerable Penguins, Study Finds Climate Change Is Another Danger - 1 views

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    Life has never been easy for just-hatched Magellanic penguins, but climate change is making it worse, according to a decades-long study of the largest breeding colony of the birds.
    The chicks are already vulnerable to predation and starvation. Now, the study at Punta Tombo, Argentina, found that intense storms and warmer temperatures are increasingly taking a toll.
    "Rainfall is killing a lot of penguins, and so is heat," said P. Dee Boersma, a University of Washington scientist and lead author of the study. "And those are two new causes."
    Climate scientists say more extreme weather, including wetter storms and more prolonged periods of heat and cold, is one impact of a climate that is changing because of emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. While monitoring the penguin colony, Dr. Boersma and her colleagues also documented regional temperature changes and increases in the number of days with heavy rains.
    The study, which is being published online Wednesday in the journal PLoS ONE, is one of the first to show a direct impact of climate change on seabirds. Most studies have looked at how warming temperatures affect animals indirectly, by altering predation patterns or food supplies.
    William J. Sydeman, senior scientist at the Farallon Institute in California, who was not involved in the research, said the study linked changes in climate, which occur on a scale of decades, to the daily scale of life in the colony. "That's a unique contribution," he said.
    The colony at Punta Tombo, in a temperate and relatively dry region about midway along Argentina's coast, is home to about 200,000 breeding pairs of the penguins, which are about 15 inches tall as adults. Dr. Boersma has been working there since 1982, with long-term support from the Wildlife Conservation Society.
    For this study, the researchers compiled data on nearly 3,500 chicks that they meticulously tracked by checking nests once or twice a day throughout the six-month breeding season, w
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