Species Moving Rapidly in Response to Climate Change, Study Says


A new study finds that animal and plant species are responding to the effects of climate change at a rate two to three times faster than previously believed.

Researchers at the University of York in the UK found that in more than 2,000 instances, species are changing their habitats to adapt to warming temperatures.

On average, they found that species are moving toward higher elevations at 12.2 meters (40 feet) per decade and toward the poles at 17.6 kilometers (11 miles) per decade.

“These changes are equivalent to animals and plants shifting away from the Equator at around 20 [centimeters]per hour, for every hour of the day, for every day of the year,” said Chris Thomas, a professor of conservation biology and lead author of the study, published in the journal Science.

In the UK, for instance, the comma butterfly has moved 220 kilometers north from central England to Edinburgh in just two decades, while the Cetti’s warbler, a small songbird, has moved 150 kilometers during the same period.

In addition, the study found that species have been moving fastest in regions where temperatures have warmed the most.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.