Impacts of Global Warming on Penguins

Though there are no wild penguins in North America, an environmental group is asking the US government to consider several species endangered – a move that could help activists compel the government to act against global warming.

In December of 2006, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service to classify twelve kinds of penguins as "endangered" or "threatened." The Center says the change could create legal leverage against activities that contribute to climate change or otherwise threaten the birds.

"We... believe that if and when penguins are listed," said CBD staff attorney Kassie Siegel, "US entities that are responsible for large sources of greenhouse emissions will also be responsible for analyzing the impact of those emissions on listed species like penguins."


General: all groups have the same questions:

1. Compare the terms ecosystem, community, species, and population as they relate to ecology.
2. What is the difference between exponential and logistic growth? What are some density-dependent factors that keep populations from growing exponentially indefinitely? What are some density-independent factors?
3. What is an ecological niche? What happens when two species have identical niches? How does the fundamental niche differ from the realized niche?
4. Explain an example of resource partitioning, and explain how natural selection can lead to character displacement.
5. Describe an example of each of the three types of symbiosis discussed in your text.
6. Explain how energy moves through the living components of an ecosystem (starting with primary productivity and including a discussion of food webs and ecological pyramids).
7. Explain how water, carbon, and nitrogen cycle through ecosystems, and give at least one example for each of how human activities can alter the cycle.
8. Seven different biomes are described in your textbook. If you were in charge of global ecosystem conservation but were told you had to focus all of your resources on preserving two of the seven types of biospheres, which would you choose, and why?


Specific to this Case Study:

     9. Describe the diversity of penguins. How many species are there? What is their

     distribution? What characteristics are unique to penguins? 

10. Describe the general role of penguins in the ecosystems to which they belong.

11. Focusing on the Antarctic Ocean ecosystem, describe the marine food web, and explain any physical factors that could influence the food web.

12. How might global warming influence these factors, and how might the food web be impacted?

13. How might penguins in particular be affected by global warming?

14. Give an overview of the possible consequences of global warming on the Antarctic.