Marine species are outpacing terrestrial species in the race against global warming


Global warming is causing species to search for more temperate environments in which 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 Verne1 – that are leading the way by moving up to six times faster towards the poles than their terrestrial congeners. By analysing 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 favourable climatic conditions. These results, published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution on 25 May 2020, raise questions about the capacity of terrestrial organisms to adapt to anticipated global warming temperatures in the 21st century.


mosaïque montrant des espèces animales et végétales, marines et terrestres
© Gaël Grenouillet


  • 1The 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).

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


Jonathan Lenoir
CNRS researcher
Romain Bertrand
Post-doctoral researcher
Priscilla Dacher
Deputy head of CNRS press office