Warming seas pushing marine life to the poles
Experts had expected the migratory shift of marine life due to warming seas to be slower than that of land species, but they said the opposite is happening.
Warming seas are forcing marine life to shift toward the poles in search of cooler water at an alarming rate, according to a new study.
Breeding and feeding patterns are also changing, "potentially triggering a range of cascading effects" and a "reconfiguration of marine ecosystems" in the not too distant future, the researchers reported in the latest edition of Nature Climate Change.
The experts had expected the migratory shift to be slower than that of land species, but they said the opposite is happening.
The marine species most impacted are moving toward the north or south poles at an average of 45 miles per decade, "considerably faster than terrestrial species, which are moving poleward" at about 4 miles per decade, study co-author Elvira Poloczanska said in a statement.
"This is occurring even though sea surface temperatures are warming three times slower than land temperatures," added Poloczanska, a researcher with Australia's national science agency.
"We expected to see more rapid response on land than in the ocean" because the air is warming faster than the seas, study co-author Christopher Brown, a researcher at Australia's University of Queensland, told The Guardian of London.
The faster ocean shift might be because marine animals are able to move vast distances, Brown said, or it could be that land species can adapt by moving shorter distances since they can find cooler temperatures by migrating up or down hills and valleys.