Climate change is forcing reef corals to move away from the equator and towards the poles, researchers say.

An international research team has used fossil records to observe reef movements in the long term, allowing them to predict the reefs' futures.

Predicting the effects of climate change on reefs is difficult, as researchers generally only have access to short-term observations, but the new study’s use of fossil records allowed a long-term view.

They found historical reefs moved towards the poles and declined at the equator as temperatures rose, in much the same way as is happening now.

Although movement towards the poles has happened before, the researchers note these fossil records do not account for modern man-made threats such as ocean acidification, overfishing and other biodiversity risks.

The report is accessible here.