FWS finds threatened status for 5 penguin species
75 Fed. Reg. 45497 / Vol. 75, No. 148 /Tuesday, August 3, 2010 /Rules and Regulations
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17 / Docket No. FWS-R9-IA-2008-0118 / MO 92210-0-0010-B6 / RIN 1018–AW40
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of Threatened Status for Five Penguin Species
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), determine threatened status for five penguins: The yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes), white-flippered penguin (Eudyptula minor albosignata), Fiordland crested penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus), Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti), and erectcrested penguin (Eudyptes sclateri) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). DATES: This rule becomes effective September 2, 2010.
Deforestation and the presence of grazing animals and agricultural activities have destroyed or degraded yellow-eyed penguin habitat throughout the species’ range on the mainland South Island of New Zealand. Photo from manu tours, New Zealand's birdwatching specialists.
EXCERPT RE: GLOBAL WARMING: Gille (2002, p. 1276) found that while ocean warming occurred in the 1950s and 1960s, it leveled off in the 1980s and 1990s; overall, there was an increase in ocean water temperature in the Southern Hemisphere over the past 50 years. Looking forward to years 2090-2099, precipitation is predicted to increase across the sub-Antarctic and Antarctic region, with a greater than 20 percent increase predicted for the Antarctic continent (IPCC 2007, p. 10). We acknowledge that ocean warming and sea level rise may occur. Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level ((IPCC 2007, p. 30). During the status review, we carefully evaluated threats facing these species. We considered the various threats in part based on their severity. In some cases, the effects of climate change are unpredictable and understudied, and the best available information does not indicate how increased sea level rise and ocean warming may affect these five penguin species. However, we determined what major stressors are affecting the status of the species, and evaluated those stressors based on the best available scientific and commercial information... Secondly, we acknowledge that the issue of ocean acidification was not directly addressed in the proposed rule. Again, with respect to penguins, the best available information does not address how ocean acidity would impact the physiology and food web associated with these five penguin species. We acknowledge that ocean acidification may be a concern, but at this time, any conclusion would be purely speculative regarding how much the oceanic pH may change in the penguins’ habitat and how the other changes in the species’ environments would interact with other known threats. The manner in which a change in ocean pH may affect penguins is currently unpredictable.
KEITHINKING: The excerpted text above is a good example of why the ESA cannot be readily used as a substitute for climate change legislation. Regardless of whether or not climate is or is not one of the threats (or even the singular threat) to a species, science often simply cannot establish the degree to which climate scale impacts affect an individual species.