Terrestrial Species Outpaced by Marine Species in the Race Against Global Warming

Marine and Terrestrial Species

Some of the 12,000 plant and animal species considered in this study. Credit: © Gaël Grenouillet

Global warming is causing species to search for more temperate environments to migrate to, but it is marine species – according to the latest results of a Franco–American study mainly involving scientists from the CNRS, Ifremer, the Université Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier and the University of Picardy Jules Verne[1] – that are leading the way by moving up to six times faster towards the poles than their terrestrial congeners.

By analyzing the speed of change in the distribution range of more than 12,000 animal and plant species, according to isotherm shifts in latitude and altitude, the researchers have shown that under certain conditions marine species are capable of following the invisible migration of temperatures towards the poles.

This unbridled race against global warming is modulated by the pressure of human activities (fishing, aquaculture, agriculture, silviculture, urban planning) speeding up or slowing down the movement of species in their pursuit of more favorable climatic conditions.

These results, published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution on May 25, 2020, raise questions about the capacity of terrestrial organisms to adapt to anticipated global warming temperatures in the 21st century.

Reference: “Species better track climate warming in the oceans than on land” by Jonathan Lenoir, Romain Bertrand, Lise Comte, Luana Bourgeaud, Tarek Hattab, Jérôme Murienne and Gaël Grenouillet, 25 May 2020, Nature Ecology & Evolution.
DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-1198-2

[1] The main French laboratories are ‘Ecology and Dynamics of Anthropogenic Systems’ (CNRS/Université de Picardie Jules Verne), ‘Evolution and Biological Diversity’ (CNRS/Université Toulouse III Paul Sabatier/ENFA), the ‘Theoretical and Experimental Ecology Station’ (CNRS/UT3 Paul Sabatier) and the ‘Centre for Marine Biodiversity, Exploitation and Conservation’ (CNRS/Université de Montpellier/Ifremer/IRD).

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