The Adélie penguin is one of six species of penguins that live in Antarctica. Penguins have lived in this region for millions of years! They have been rapidly declining in a certain part of Antarctica, and scientists predict their sharp decline correlates to climate change. Since the 1970's, these type of penguins have declined by at least 80% on the West Antarctic Peninsula. This area has also seen more years with warmer than average sea surface temperatures than any other region in the world.
With warmer sea surface temperatures comes many obstacles for these penguins. First, this affects the melting of sea ice, which leads to less surface area for the penguins to live. Second, warmer sea temps affect the availability of food. With less fish for them to eat, they have to turn to krill, which is less nutritious. Lastly, penguins need an area to lay their nests. They cannot lay their nests if warming sea temps are creating premature melting of ice. The melting of ice leads to more puddles, and eggs cannot survive if they are lying in a pool of water. In conclusion, the Adélie penguin cannot survive without sea ice.
In 2012, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources downgraded the Adélie penguins' status from "least concern" to "near threatened." Researchers predict that 60% of their habitat around the West Antarctic Peninsula would be unsuitable for them by 2099. The good news is that these penguins are living in the southern most part of Antarctica, where there have been fewer climatic changes. They are much more stable and their numbers are actually increasing!