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Antarctica: Thousands of emperor penguin chicks wiped out

南极洲:成千上万的帝企鹅幼崽消失

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

近年来,帝企鹅的生存环境遭到了极大的破坏,,随着海平面的不断上涨,成千上万的帝企鹅幼崽溺亡。

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

2016年,这是一场发生在南极洲威德尔海的灾难。

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.

据科学家所言,布伦特冰架(南极洲冰川)边缘的殖民地已经完全倒塌,然而成年企鹅完全没有要重新建立族群的迹象。可能对于他们来说,在一个即将被巨大冰川所摧毁的土地上重建毫无意义。

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

图为Peter Fretwell博士和Phil Trathan博士从卫星上观测到的被称为哈雷研究站(是英国设立的南极科学考察站,位于布伦特冰架)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.

曾经你甚至可以在800千米以上的高空观测到冰原上动物的排泄物,或是鸟粪,并且以此来估计这些动物的聚集规模。

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.

但是布伦特冰架,这个近几十来维持着平均14000到25000对企鹅(占全球的5%-9%)繁殖的地区,在一夜之间就化为乌有。

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.

帝企鹅是企鹅中最高、最重的一类。他们对繁殖地有着极高的要求:生长的冰原不会轻易消失,至少能够从4月份他们登上的一刻开始,维持到12月份幼崽长出羽毛。

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

如果海面上的冰块过早融化,还未长满羽毛的帝企鹅幼崽将没有足够的时间学会游泳,这个他们生命中必备的技能。

This appears to have been what happened in 2016.

不幸的是,这一幕还是在2016年发生了。

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。飓风席卷了海冰面,裹挟着碎冰撞击在布伦特高架较为坚硬的一层,虽然没有撞碎却留下了不可修复的裂痕。

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."

据Fretwell博士所说:“这些刚刚成形于2016年的冰层太过脆弱。以往发生在10、11月份的风暴提前爆发,这是导致灾难发生的罪魁祸首。原本应该坚实可靠的冰层,此时完全无法抵御风暴。”

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.

澳大利亚商业活动队伍相信接下来的几年内成年企鹅都将不会进行繁殖,或是穿过威尔德海迁徙到一块新的生存地。在50千米以外的另一处聚集地,靠近道森 - 兰姆顿冰川,帝企鹅的数量明显剧增。

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.

关于为何布伦特高架海平面上的冰原在被摧毁后并没有再生,这一具体原因目前并不明确。风暴来临之前也没有明显的气象预测;仅有布伦特附近的大气和海洋观测显示出一点气候的变化。

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.

但据该团队所说,这片聚集地对海冰变化趋势的敏感性的确表明了未来的全球变暖可能对帝企鹅造成影响。

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,如果电脑计算无误,海冰面持续消失,那么到本世纪末帝企鹅族群将会失去其全球数量的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.

“这场灾难所造成的后果绝不仅仅是对帝企鹅产生影响”,新西兰坎特伯雷大学的生态学家,Michelle LaRue博士说道:“作为食物链的一部分,帝企鹅还有另一种身份,我们称之为中介者。一方面,他们是海豹的猎物。另一方面,帝企鹅自身也会捕食鱼类和鳞虾。他们是生态系统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:“我所关心的并不仅仅是这一族群接下来的迁移聚集地,以及随之而来的繁殖失败,我们很清楚会这样。但除此之外,我们更应该关心威德尔海还能否成为另一个可靠的生存地,在气候变化中给其他像帝企鹅这样生存在寒冷环境中的物种提供避难所。”

"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."

“此刻我们看到的,发生在这些避难所60多年来未曾有过的骚乱,就是对可能随之而来的灾难的一个明显的信号。”

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

哈雷湾殖民地还是否确实拥有未来是一个有争议的问题。

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

随着裂缝的出现,布伦特冰架逐渐分崩离析。

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.

这个裂缝会逐渐崩解,最终使规模有伦敦那么大的巨型冰山沉入威德尔海,任何粘在冰山边缘的海冰都可能在此过程中破裂。

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

没有任何方法可以改变这片帝企鹅生存地即将毁灭的事实。

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

调查由Peter Fretwell和Phil Trathan博士在“南极科学”杂志上报道提供。