A Safe Operating Space for Penguins: fostering the present and future conservation of penguins and their associated marine systems

Duration: 2022-2026

Funding: Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (PID2021-124831OA-I00)

Coordinator: Dr. Fran. Ramirez

Role: Member of working group


Oceans provide humans with natural benefits such as seafood provisioning, carbon storage and climate regulation—the so-called ecosystems services. However, despite their paramount importance for the maintenance of life and human wellbeing, oceanic systems are among the most complex, poorly understood and impacted biomes. Identifying present and future key marine areas and species that require specific management and conservation actions is a major societal challenge that can contribute to adapt and mitigate environmental consequences of Global Environmental Change (GEC); and move towards the necessary shift to sustainability. However, this may represent a major challenge for marine conservation today because of the lack of holistic approaches based on the combination of reliable spatial-temporal information on the simultaneous distribution of key marine species and main stressors in the complex, remote and vast oceans. Through this project, we aim to fill a gap of knowledge in the southern hemisphere and contribute to the present and future conservation and sustainable use of marine communities and ecosystem services of this valuable ecosystem. We will focus on penguins as ‘sentinel’ species for environmental health monitoring. Penguins are widely distributed through the southern hemisphere, and, because of their charismatic appeal, they may act as “ambassadors” and play a vital role in education to help explain environmental issues to the public. Penguins are facing severe threats and deserve conservation priority, but may also act as “umbrella/flagship” species and promote the conservation of key marine ecosystems while supporting living resources and, therefore, essential
economic, nutritional, recreational and health needs of societies. We will combine the most comprehensive dataset on penguin biology and ecology (e.g. diets, dynamics, and distributions) with the most novel and finer spatially explicit assessments for climate impacts and human stressors within cutting-edge, spatial-temporal marine ecosystem modelling tools. We will hindcast and forecasts penguin responses to different scenarios of climate change and human driven pressures, contributing to the scientific capability to project what the future marine ecosystems in the southern hemisphere may look like and how different scenarios may play out. The project will provide, therefore, the necessary framework and scientific knowledge to enroll citizens and stakeholders in reliable and effective management and conservation actions to preserve the highly valuable marine ecosystems and the associated ecosystem services.