Long-lived animals are often high up in the food chain. As such, they can majorly impact ecosystems by amplifying the effects of climate change on other organisms. Understanding the interaction between climate change and population genetics will help scientists to better predict and mitigate future climate change impacts.The EU-funded 'Demographic strategies under climate variation: A study on Arctic and Antarctic seabirds' (EVOLBIRD) project aimed to study the effects of climate change on sea-bird demographics.EVOLBIRD researchers found that in king penguins, adult survival is the major predictor of population growth, although early-age survival also played an important role. The project also found that under adverse environmental conditions, these birds start to breed at a younger age.Additionally researchers determined that flipper bands (previously used to identify and track king penguins) impair the survival and reproduction of these birds, casting doubt onto decades of population research. Researchers used rgovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predictions to model how the king penguin populations would change over time. Even the most conservative predictions showed that the colony studied would be near extinction in less than 100 years.Similar methods are now being applied to kittiwake populations in the Barents Sea. This project has contributed to the survival and protection of king penguins, and has improved our understanding of the effects of climate change on arctic birds.
King penguin, population genetics, climate change, flipper bands, kittiwake