"That's like moving the dinner plate to a totally different place in the ocean," Halpern said.
The authors also saw substantial shifts in marine species' phenology, or the seasonal timing of life cycle events like breeding or migration. Spring phenological change in the ocean has advanced by more than four days per decade, the paper states, while the shift for land-based species is estimated to be between 2.3 and 2.8 days per decade.
Like on land, behavioral timing shifts do not happen equally for all species, making it possible for "mismatches" to occur.
"There actually are differences in the rate of response between different taxonomies," Moore said.
"You're seeing quite large changes or advances in the phenology of zooplankton and fish, for instance, but seeing much-reduced changes in phenology for seabirds," she said. "If you think that seabirds perhaps eat the plankton and eat the fish, the differences in response can lead to what's called a trophic mismatch, which means that perhaps when the seabirds arrive on their colony to nest, their food supply is not there anymore."
An 'unpredictable' reorganization
The reason behind ocean species' swift adjustment to climate change is not explained in the paper. However, said Moore, it could be because parts of the ocean containing water of the same temperature, called isotherms, are changing location faster than land temperatures. Ocean isotherms span hundreds of miles, so marine creatures have to shift their ranges at a faster rate to stay comfortable.
Another unknown is exactly what the impact of these major shifts might be, but a major reorganization of underwater ecosystems seems likely.
"The structure and the functions of these ecosystems, and the services that they provide to society, are going to be more and more unpredictable," said Sydeman.
Halpern said that the impact of climate change on people like Train, whose livelihood depends on the distribution of different ocean species, is also worrisome: "It's not easy to move an entire community 200 miles up the coast when the fish move," he said.
"There's almost certainly going to be unexpected consequences from reshuffling species," he added. "Yes, nature and people can adapt, but I think at a pace slower than what we're seeing happening in response to what climate change suggests will be possible."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500