Plant and animal species have tended to move towards the poles, fleeing in search of their more accustomed temperatures as climate change has resulted in the warming of their normal habitats, according to the new research.
British newspaper, The Guardian reports, the phenomenon is one of the clearest examples of climate change in action.
According to the study, the average rate of movement is three times faster than previously expected for those species migrating toward the poles.
Yet, for organisms that are migrating further up mountains, the average rate of movement is about twice as fast as realized.
The study, published in the journal, Science, said that species are moving northward in the northern hemisphere and southward in the southern hemisphere at an average rate of about 16 kilometers or 17 kilometers per decade.
Chris Thomas, professor of conservation biology at York University and leader of the project, said, 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.
This has been going on for the last 40 years and is set to continue for at least the rest of this century, he added.
The research team analyzed data from a variety of studies, most of them from Europe and North America, finding more than 2,000 examples of how animal and plant species have adapted by moving their habitat.
They found that, on average, species have moved to higher ground at a rate of 12.2 meters per decade, and moved closer to the poles at the faster speed of 17.6 meters per decade.
Species are being forced to move to stick to the temperatures that they have evolved to expect, but the study also found wide variations among different species.