Cyclical prey shortages for a marine polar predator driven by the interaction of climate change and natural climate variability

Amanda C. Lohmann, Joseph P. Morton, Oscar M. Schofield, Douglas P. Nowacek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Between 1992 and 2018, the breeding population of Adélie penguins around Anvers Island, Antarctica declined by 98%. In this region, natural climate variability drives five-year cycling in marine phytoplankton productivity, leading to phase-offset five-year cycling in the size of the krill population. We demonstrate that the rate of change of the Adélie breeding population also shows five-year cycling. We link this population response to cyclical krill scarcity, a phenomenon which appears to have arisen from the interaction between climate variability and climate change trends. Modeling suggests that, since at least 1980, natural climate variability has driven cycling in this marine system. However, anthropogenic climate change has shifted conditions so that fewer years in each cycle now prompt strong krill recruitment, triggering intervals of krill scarcity that result in drastic declines in Adélie penguins. Our results imply that climate change can amplify the impacts of natural climate oscillations across trophic levels, driving cycling across species and disrupting food webs. The findings indicate that climate variability plays an integral role in driving ecosystem dynamics under climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2668-2687
Number of pages20
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Volume68
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science

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