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.
University of York