The biological makeup of the oceans is rearranging in response to changing water temperatures. Species are being pushed toward the poles at a rate of almost four and a half miles per year as they seek environments they can survive in, a study found.
Scientists from 17 institutions conducted the study, gathering data from different countries. They found that warming oceans are causing marine life to alter their feeding, breeding and migration patterns.
Land species are shifting at a rate of less than .6 miles per year, even though temperatures on land are rising at a much faster rate than those in the ocean.
“In general, the air is warming faster than the ocean because the air has greater capacity to absorb temperature. So we expected to see more rapid response on land than in the ocean. But we sort of found the inverse,” said study researcher Dr Christopher Brown, post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute.
Brown said this may be because marine animals are able to move vast distances, or it could be because it’s easier to escape changing temperatures on land where there are hills and valleys, rather than on a flat ocean surface.
The team looked at a wide variety of species, from plankton and ocean plants to predators such as seals, seabirds and big fish.