The Downward March of the Penguins

Jul 2, 2008 1:49pm

Dee Boersma, the biologist at the University of Washington whose warning about penguins  yesterday made headlines, seemed genuinely surprised at the attention when I reached her  yesterday.  Her paper, in the journal BioScience, is HERE, and it’s different from most of the  scholarly papers that come my way.  For one thing, it’s written in plain English.  And it’s  more of an alarm than a straight documenting — something she says she’s been working on for 25 years — of the decline in the numbers of many penguin species. So give her paper a read, mindful of the position she’s taken as an advocate. "The human population has exploded.  In my lifetime it’s more than doubled.  What we’re seeing  for penguins is their populations are halving," Boersma told us. She calls penguins "sentinels of the marine environment," and says their well-being is a signal of ours. "What they are telling us is that there are fundamental changes going in the world’s oceans,  and it’s not good, and we need to be paying attention to these species."

(Emperor Penguins.  Image credit: Michael Van Woert, NOAA NESDIS, ORA)

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