Potential for redistribution of post‐moult habitat for Eudyptes penguins in the Southern Ocean under future climate conditions

Anthropogenic climate change is resulting in spatial redistributions of many species. We assessed the potential effects of climate change on an abundant and widely distributed group of diving birds, Eudyptes penguins, which are the main avian consumers in the Southern Ocean in terms of biomass consumption. Despite their abundance, several of these species have undergone population declines over the past century, potentially due to changing oceanography and prey availability over the important winter months. We used light-based geolocation tracking data for 485 individuals deployed between 2006 – 2020 across 10 of the major breeding locations for five taxa of Eudyptes penguins. We used Boosted Regression Tree modelling to quantify post-moult habitat preference for southern rockhopper (E. chrysocome), eastern rockhopper (E. filholi), northern rockhopper (E. moseleyi) and macaroni/royal (E. chrysolophus and E. schlegeli) penguins. We then modelled their redistribution under two climate change scenarios, Representative Concentration Pathways RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 (for the end of the century, 2071 – 2100). As climate forcings differ regionally, we quantified redistribution in the Atlantic, Central Indian, East Indian, West Pacific, and East Pacific regions. We found sea surface temperature and sea surface height to be the most important predictors of current habitat for these penguins; physical features that are changing rapidly in the Southern Ocean. Our results indicated that the less severe RCP4.5 would lead to less habitat loss than the more severe RCP8.5. The five taxa of penguin may experience a general poleward redistribution of their preferred habitat, but with contrasting effects in the i) change in total area of preferred habitat under climate change ii) according to geographic region and iii) the species (macaroni/royal vs rockhopper populations). Our results provide further understanding on the regional impacts and vulnerability of species to climate change.


Publication status:
Authors: Green, Cara‐Paige, Green, David B., Ratcliffe, Norman ORCIDORCID record for Norman Ratcliffe, Thompson, David, Lea, Mary‐Anne, Baylis, Alastair M. M., Bond, Alexander L., Bost, Charles‐André, Crofts, Sarah, Cuthbert, Richard J., González‐Solís, Jacob, Morrison, Kyle W., Poisblau, Maud, Pütz, Klemens, Rey, Andrea Raya, Ryan, Peter G., Sagar, Paul M., Steinfurth, Antje, Thiebot, Jean‐Baptiste, Tierney, Megan, Whitehead, T. Otto, Wotherspoon, Simon, Hindell, Mark A.

On this site: Norman Ratcliffe
1 February, 2023
Global Change Biology / 29
20pp / 648-667
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