With attention generally trained on activities at the North Pole, new research warns the continued extraction and combustion of fossil fuels could kill off nearly two-thirds of Antarctica’s native species by the end of this century. The study, published Thursday in PLOS Biology finds the impacts of pollution and climate change are dramatically changing the island continent. Rapidly disappearing sea ice is especially dangerous to multiple penguin species, including the emperor and Adélie penguins that rely on summer sea ice for nesting.

These threats of irreversible damage to Antarctic biodiversity can be mitigated, if not completely undone, but rapid action to slash greenhouse gas pollution. “This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Jasmine Lee, lead author of the study, told CNN. “We’re at this huge turning point now not just for Antarctica, but globally, when it comes to climate. We’ve got the opportunity to stop it and if we don’t do something now, then the impacts are going to be much, much worse than what they could be.” (CNN, The Guardian, ABC AU, The Independent, The Conversation; Climate Signals background: Sea ice decline)