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Antarctic krill. (Photo: Uwe kils/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Study predicts alarming krill drop by end of the century

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Saturday, August 27, 2016, 02:30 (GMT + 9)

Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) habitat is undergoing a continuous deterioration process, which could lead to a reduction of up to 80 per cent by the end of the century.

Given the key role that this small crustacean plays in the marine food chain, its decline would cause other problems for species that depend on it as a food source, such as whales, penguins, seals, squid and fish, among other marine organisms.

This dark forecast comes from a study performed at Yale University by Andrea Piñones, a researcher at the Research Centre for High Latitude Marine Ecosystem Dynamics (IDEAL) and the Advanced Study Centre in Arid Zones (CEAZA), along with Alexey Fedorov, a researcher at Yale University.

Piñoness explains that the krill population has already fallen between 80 and 90 per cent since 1970, a situation that has generated a broad scientific debate on the causes of this decline.

In this regard, many believe that this is related to the changes in the environment, particularly with warming Antarctic waters.

To carry out the study, whose results were published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the researchers combined climate simulations -- based on the projections of the international panel of climate change --, with a krill growth model. Thus, they determined that with an increase in water temperature and sea ice melting, its habitat could reduce up to 80 per cent by 2100.

Climate models predict that as the oceans receive more heat from the greenhouse effect, circumpolar deep water flow will be heated from 1 to 1.5 °C at the end of the century, and the temperature of surface waters in some areas around Antarctica could rise to 2 °C.

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