Metapopulation Tracking Juvenile Penguins Reveals an Ecosystem-wide Ecological Trap

Journal: Current Biology

Published: 2017-02-09

DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.12.054

Affiliations: 9

Authors: 9

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Research Highlight

Young penguins trapped by depleted fishing grounds

© Mike Korostelev

© Mike Korostelev

Juvenile penguins travelling to traditional sardine foraging grounds along the Namibian coastline are being thwarted by climate change and overfishing.

An international group of researchers — including two from the University of Cape Town — used satellites to track the movements of 54 young African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) from eight breeding sites, to see where they travelled to seek food.

They found that the penguins relied on water temperature and chlorophyll level cues that would normally lead them to rich sources of sardines, but these habitats have now become degraded by overfishing and climate change.

Many of the young penguins starved, and modelling suggests that breeding numbers could be halved in areas where these ecological traps occur. The authors proposed that fishing should be suspended when sardine populations fall below a certain level.

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  1. Current Biology 27, 563–568 (2017). doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.12.054
Institutions Share
University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa 0.37
Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), South Africa 0.28
University of Exeter, United Kingdom (UK) 0.15
Namibia Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Namibia 0.06
Bristol Zoological Society, United Kingdom (UK) 0.04
University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), United States of America (USA) 0.04
NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC), United States of America (USA) 0.04
University of the Sunshine Coast (USC), Australia 0.04