Climate change may affect or is already affecting all life stages of seabirds; heat waves and extreme weather events such as heat waves or storms cause breeding failures as eggs and chicks are abandoned and exposed to the elements. Changes in sea temperature and currents can lead to changes in food availability and distribution of prey, resulting in poor body condition of seabirds and in the long-term increased mortality. Storms and increased wave action can also lead to reduced breeding habitat caused by flooding or coastal erosion and become unviable habitat for breeding penguins.
SANCCOB is collaborating with the South African Nationals Parks (SANParks) at the Boulders Beach Penguin Colony (Table Mountain National Park) in a study assessing the impacts of climate change on breeding African penguins. Due to generous funding provided by WWF International’s Wildlife Adaptation Innovation Fund, a weather station has been installed and temperature and humidity sensors have been placed in several different nest types and different breeding habitats. By analysing breeding success, monitored by SANCCOB’s Penguin and Seabird Rangers in Simon’s Town in collaboration with City of Cape Town and SANParks, and linking breeding success/failure to recorded temperatures, the aim is to predict the conditions that cause penguins to abandon their eggs and chicks. This information will assist with improved management interventions, focusing on successful nest and habitat types (i.e., vegetation, natural nest or artificial nest boxes) as well as the development of an early warning system that can be adjusted to other seabird colonies.