Melting Antarctic sea ice is a major problem for the entire planet, but for emperor penguins, the situation is dire. Because their environment is vanishing at an alarming rate, the famous penguin’s population could be reduced by a third by the end of the century, which ultimately makes them vulnerable to extinction. Researchers hope that the news will prompt listing the emperor penguin as an endangered species so that the amazing birds can be protected.

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Researchers recently published an article detailing the situation in Nature Climate Change journal. Because the sea ice is home to krill, which is the penguin’s main food source, the penguins are losing their food supply. And while temporary shifting in the ice may actually increase penguin populations in the near future, ultimately by 2100 the populations will be in an overall decline. Researchers also point out that, unlike some animal species, there is little chance that penguins could adapt to the changing environment in order to survive.

Related: University of Washington Scientists Believe Climate Change Is Responsible for Penguin Chick Deaths

“The population is declining. Unless something changes to stop that, the population will go into extinction,” said Hal Caswell, one of the researchers contributing to the report.  protecting the penguins under the Endangered Species Act could create a managed area to conserve their habitat and would require looking at ways to enact greenhouse gas mitigation. Reducing fishing in the area would also help protect krill supplies, giving penguins a better chance to survive.

Via The Guardian

Lead image via Shutterstock, image via Dave Morris