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Source: Google U.K. Edition

Researchers are still trying to learn why the population of African penguins has dropped precipitously over the last 15 years—some estimates say by 90% – but most agree that climate change is a major factor in the decline of this iconic African species.

There may be additional forces at work, including pollution, overfishing, predators and disease, but warming currents on both sides of the continent are driving the huge shoals of sardines and anchovies on which the penguins dine farther south toward cooler waters.

Warming waters are not a problem only for penguins and other sea creatures. They have major implications for coastal communities all around the continent, where a quarter of all people rely on the ocean as a primary source of food.

Globally, average temperatures will increase by more than 2°C by the end of the 21st century, and could increase by as much as 3°C by 2050 and even by 6°C by 2100. The impacts of this warming on the ocean surrounding the continent are already being felt.

Small-scale artisanal fishing and tourism are critical economic pillars for communities along Africa’s 30,500-kilometre coastline. Many of these are grappling with the effects of climate change, including rising sea levels, warming waters and increasing ocean acidification, which has led to greater coastal erosion that has damaged infrastructure in West Africa. A warming Indian Ocean has damaged coral reefs that are essential for tourism, fishing, and the protection of the shoreline.

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