By the Blouin News Science & Health staff

Mixed research on Antarctica’s well-being

by in Environment.

Adélie penguins. (Source:  lin padgham/flickr)

Adélie penguins. (Source: lin padgham/flickr)

by Juliana Kenny

Good and bad news for Antarctica this week. The bad: the continent could lose most of its penguins as a result of climate change. The good: the continent’s ozone hole appears to be shrinking.

Antarctica has two true penguin species, Adélie and Emperor. The Adélie penguins have survived all manner of changing weather and environment for the last 45,000 years, but research published on Wednesday in Scientific Reports found that up to 60% of the current Adélie penguin habitat on the continent could be unable to host colonies by the end of this century.

The research, which examined year-to-year data from 1981 to 2010, found that some colonies saw declines of over 80%, some were stable, and some grew. But the colonies that declined were ones that had been exposed to new environmental conditions, and/or conditions “outside the range of historical observations,” according to National Geographic. The researchers believe that climate change will affect penguin populations via the quality and availability of food and nesting habitats. Loss of sea ice is also a threat.

On the flip side, a study published in Science this week found “fingerprints” indicating that the seasonal ozone hole over Antarctica has been getting smaller. The hole was discovered in 1984, notes The New York Times, and the research found that the global effort to cut down on the use of chemicals known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) — known to destroy the atmosphere’s ozone layer — is having its intended effect.

Researchers are heartened by this discovery, especially in light of other discouraging discoveries about the warming climate all over the world and its destructive effects on flora and fauna.

A healing ozone layer is good news for the penguins, too. Even if their livelihood remains uncertain.