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Antarctica: Thousands of emperor penguin chicks wiped out

南極洲:成千上萬的帝企鵝幼崽消失

Thousands of emperor penguin chicks drowned when the sea-ice on which they were being raised was destroyed in severe weather.

近年來,帝企鵝的生存環境遭到了極大的破壞,,隨著海平面的不斷上漲,成千上萬的帝企鵝幼崽溺亡。

The catastrophe occurred in 2016 in Antarctica's Weddell Sea.

2016年,這是一場發生在南極洲威德爾海的災難。

Scientists say the colony at the edge of the Brunt Ice Shelf has collapsed with adult birds showing no sign of trying to re-establish the population.
And it would probably be pointless for them to try as a giant iceberg is about to disrupt the site.

據科學家所言,布倫特冰架(南極洲冰川)邊緣的殖民地已經完全倒塌,然而成年企鵝完全沒有要重新建立族群的跡象。可能對于他們來說,在一個即將被巨大冰川所摧毀的土地上重建毫無意義。

Drs Peter Fretwell and Phil Trathan noticed the disappearance of the so-called Halley Bay colony in satellite pictures.

圖為Peter Fretwell博士和Phil Trathan博士從衛星上觀測到的被稱為哈雷研究站(是英國設立的南極科學考察站,位于布倫特冰架)的消失。

It is possible even from 800km up to spot the animals' excrement, or guano, on the white ice and then to estimate the likely size of any gathering.

曾經你甚至可以在800千米以上的高空觀測到冰原上動物的排泄物,或是鳥糞,并且以此來估計這些動物的聚集規模。

But the Brunt population, which had sustained an average of 14,000 to 25,000 breeding pairs for several decades (5-9% of the global population), essentially disappeared overnight.

但是布倫特冰架,這個近幾十來維持著平均14000到25000對企鵝(占全球的5%-9%)繁殖的地區,在一夜之間就化為烏有。

Emperors are the tallest and heaviest of the penguin species and need reliable patches of sea-ice on which to breed, and this icy platform must persist from April, when the birds arrive, until December, when their chicks fledge.

帝企鵝是企鵝中最高、最重的一類。他們對繁殖地有著極高的要求:生長的冰原不會輕易消失,至少能夠從4月份他們登上的一刻開始,維持到12月份幼崽長出羽毛。

If the sea-ice breaks up too early, the young birds will not have the right feathers to start swimming.

如果海面上的冰塊過早融化,還未長滿羽毛的帝企鵝幼崽將沒有足夠的時間學會游泳,這個他們生命中必備的技能。

This appears to have been what happened in 2016.

不幸的是,這一幕還是在2016年發生了。

Strong winds hollowed out the sea-ice that had stuck hard to the side of the thicker Brunt shelf in its creeks, and never properly reformed. Not in 2017, nor in 2018.

既不是2017年,也不是2018年。颶風席卷了海冰面,裹挾著碎冰撞擊在布倫特高架較為堅硬的一層,雖然沒有撞碎卻留下了不可修復的裂痕。

Dr Fretwell told BBC News: "The sea-ice that's formed since 2016 hasn't been as strong. Storm events that occur in October and November will now blow it out early. So there's been some sort of regime change. Sea-ice that was previously stable and reliable is now just untenable."

據Fretwell博士所說:“這些剛剛成形于2016年的冰層太過脆弱。以往發生在10、11月份的風暴提前爆發,這是導致災難發生的罪魁禍首。原本應該堅實可靠的冰層,此時完全無法抵御風暴。”

The BAS team believes many adults have either avoided breeding in these later years or moved to new breeding sites across the Weddell Sea. A colony some 50km away, close to the Dawson-Lambton Glacier, has seen a big rise in its numbers.

澳大利亞商業活動隊伍相信接下來的幾年內成年企鵝都將不會進行繁殖,或是穿過威爾德海遷徙到一塊新的生存地。在50千米以外的另一處聚集地,靠近道森 - 蘭姆頓冰川,帝企鵝的數量明顯劇增。

Quite why the sea-ice platform on the edge of the Brunt shelf has failed to regenerate is unclear. There is no obvious climate signal to point to in this case; atmospheric and ocean observations in the vicinity of the Brunt reveal little in the way of change.

關于為何布倫特高架海平面上的冰原在被摧毀后并沒有再生,這一具體原因目前并不明確。風暴來臨之前也沒有明顯的氣象預測;僅有布倫特附近的大氣和海洋觀測顯示出一點氣候的變化。

But the sensitivity of this colony to shifting sea-ice trends does illustrate, says the team, the impact that future warming in Antarctica could have on emperor penguins in particular.

但據該團隊所說,這片聚集地對海冰變化趨勢的敏感性的確表明了未來的全球變暖可能對帝企鵝造成影響。

Research suggests the species might lose anywhere between 50% and 70% of its global population by the end of this century if sea-ice is reduced to the extent that computer models envisage.

研究表明,如果電腦計算無誤,海冰面持續消失,那么到本世紀末帝企鵝族群將會失去其全球數量的50%-70%。

This would have consequences beyond just the emperors themselves, commented Dr Michelle LaRue, an ecologist at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.
"They're an important part of the food web; they're what we call a mesopredator. They're both prey for animals like leopard seals but they also prey themselves on fish and krill species. So, they do play an important role in the ecosystem," she told BBC News.

“這場災難所造成的后果絕不僅僅是對帝企鵝產生影響”,新西蘭坎特伯雷大學的生態學家,Michelle LaRue博士說道:“作為食物鏈的一部分,帝企鵝還有另一種身份,我們稱之為中介者。一方面,他們是海豹的獵物。另一方面,帝企鵝自身也會捕食魚類和鱗蝦。他們是生態系統中不可或缺的一部分!”

Dr Trathan said: "What's interesting for me is not that colonies move or that we can have major breeding failures - we know that. It's that we are talking here about the deep embayment of the Weddell Sea, which is potentially one of the climate change refugia for those cold-adapted species like emperor penguins.

Trathan博士:“我所關心的并不僅僅是這一族群接下來的遷移聚集地,以及隨之而來的繁殖失敗,我們很清楚會這樣。但除此之外,我們更應該關心威德爾海還能否成為另一個可靠的生存地,在氣候變化中給其他像帝企鵝這樣生存在寒冷環境中的物種提供避難所。”

"And so if we see major disturbances in these refugia - where we haven't previously seen changes in 60 years - that's an important signal."

“此刻我們看到的,發生在這些避難所60多年來未曾有過的騷亂,就是對可能隨之而來的災難的一個明顯的信號。”

Whether the Halley Bay colony specifically really had a future is a moot point.

哈雷灣殖民地還是否確實擁有未來是一個有爭議的問題。

The Brunt Ice Shelf is being split apart by a developing crack.

隨著裂縫的出現,布倫特冰架逐漸分崩離析。

This chasm will eventually calve an iceberg the size of Greater London into the Weddell Sea, and any sea-ice stuck to the berg's edge may break up in the process.

這個裂縫會逐漸崩解,最終使規模有倫敦那么大的巨型冰山沉入威德爾海,任何粘在冰山邊緣的海冰都可能在此過程中破裂。

The colony could have been doomed regardless of what happened in 2016.

沒有任何方法可以改變這片帝企鵝生存地即將毀滅的事實。

Drs Peter Fretwell and Phil Trathan report their investigation in the journal Antarctic Science.

調查由Peter Fretwell和Phil Trathan博士在“南極科學”雜志上報道提供。