And they are doing so at a much faster rate than their land-based counterparts, they said.
Reporting their study in the journal Nature Climate Change, a team of researchers from Australia, the United States, Canada, Britain, Europe and South Africa said warming oceans are impacting the breeding patterns and habitat of marine life, effectively rearranging the broader marine landscape.
"The leading edge or 'front line' of a marine species' distribution is moving towards the poles at the average rate of 72 kilometers (45 miles) per decade, which is considerably faster than terrestrial species moving poleward at an average of 6 kilometers (4 miles) per decade," University of Queensland marine ecologist Elvira Poloczanska said. "This is despite sea surface temperatures warming three times slower than land temperatures."
Winter and spring temperatures, over both ocean and land, are warming fastest, she said, which might impact events such as the start of growing seasons and the timing of reproduction.
"Essentially, these findings indicate that changes in life events and distribution of species indicates we are seeing widespread reorganization of marine ecosystems, with likely significant repercussions for the services these ecosystems provide to humans," she said.