Marine species are migrating toward the poles as much as 12 times faster than land-based species as a result of the warming climate, according to a new study by an international team of scientists.
The study, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows marine species distribution moving toward the poles at an average of 72 kilometres per decade, compared to terrestrial species, which are moving poleward at an average of six kilometres per decade.
It is the first comprehensive documentation of what is happening in the marine ecosystems as a result of climate change and will now form part of the Fifth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change.
The international research team, which includes UBC zoologist Mary O'Connor, also found that the timing of spring events in the oceans has advanced by more than four days, nearly twice the figure for land. In the case of zooplankton and larval bony fish, spring has sprung as many as 11 days earlier.
The team analyzed global peer-reviewed literature to assemble a large database of 1,735 changes in marine life. The biological changes in marine species were documented from time series, with an average length of 40 years of observation.
The study was led by Elvira Poloczanska at CSIRO in Australia, and included 20 researchers from Europe, the United States, Australia, South Africa and Canada. The research was conducted at the University of California, Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, where O’Connor was a post-doctoral associate.