TARA EXPEDITIONS IS A FRENCH NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION ACTIVE SINCE 2003 IN FAVOR OF THE ENVIRONMENT. A LEGENDARY BOAT BUILT FOR EXTREME CONDITIONS, TARA IS THE PLATFORM FOR HIGH-LEVEL SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH MISSIONS.
The missions of Tara Expeditions concern 3 mains themes:
– Ocean & Mankind
– Ocean & Biodiversity
– Ocean & Climate.
In addition of the scientific and research sides, Tara expedition is also a great tool to engage people and student around environmental issues of the ocean. The crew often spend time to discuss with student about all the subjects studied aboard Tara: climate change, biodiversity, polar environments, planktons…
For 10 years Tara has been constantly on the move: The schooner has travelled 300,000 kilometers across all the world’s oceans. They have accomplished 10 expeditions  to study and understand the impacts of climate change and the ecological crisis on the ocean. Please find bellow information about the 3 latest missions around the world.
The accumulation of plastic debris in nature is “one of the most ubiquitous and long-lasting recent changes to the surface of our planet” (Barnes, et al., 2009) and one of the most pervasive environmental concerns of our time. Yet, too little is known about the fate of this plastic and its role in ecosystem dynamics to predict the inevitable impacts on our world’s oceans.
To address this critical knowledge gap, TARA Méditerranée has taken the first large-scale expedition and cross-disciplinary approach to better understand the ecosystem-level impacts of surface plastics in the Mediterranean Sea, a vital cultural and economic asset where plastics have already been documented at high numbers (Collignon, et al., 2012). They will quantify and identify surface plastics and plastic-bound organic pollutants, document the interaction between plastics and ecosystem members (e.g., plankton, fish), and explore the community dynamics and function of microscopic plastic-dwelling life forms (including potential alien and toxin species). Finally, they will employ a novel -potentially high-impact- approach to link plastic fragment distribution to circulation and physico-chemical properties of water masses at the basin scale, thereby informing future attempts to model and predict the spatial fate of plastic in the Mediterranean Sea.
Please follow the expedition live in the Tara Expedition Website
Launched in September 2009, the schooner’s 8th and 9th expeditions (Tara Oceans and Tara Oceans Polar Circle) have been a three years voyage around the world, with fifty stopovers. Its purpose has been to investigate planktonic and coral ecosystems in the perspective of climate changes. 150 international scientists have taken part. The initial results of the expedition have exceeded expectations, recent data sets allow to create a map of plankton species interactions and to understand how plankton distribution is impacted by environmental changes, like fast-moving ocean currents.
An odyssey totalling 938 days at sea, the expedition sailed from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic via the Indian Ocean, the Pacific, the Arctic and the Antarctic. 250 crewmembers, scientists, artists and journalists from 40 countries spent three years working on the Tara for a common goal.
I) Plankton study
The aim project was to improve the understanding of plankton, how it evolves, how it interconnects and moves constantly from one ocean to another. It is a complex subject with a lot of questions. We only know a tenth, perhaps a hundredth, of what there is to know about plankton. And what about the risks to plankton, the bacteria and the viruses? Are all these kingdoms linked and reliant on each other? How are microorganisms distributed in the oceans and what is their biodiversity? In localized areas or everywhere? How many of them are there? What influence does temperature, salinity, acidity and physico-chemical parameters have on these strange creatures, and in which regions.”
To answer these questions the Tara Oceans Expedition called on an army of experts who specialize in genomics, quantitative imaging, biology, biogeochemistry, biogeography, oceanography, biophysics, genetics and bioinformatics, and more.
In 1997, NASA published the world’s first estimate of how much chlorophyll is produced by plankton and went on to demonstrate its role in regulating our air through the process of photosynthesis. The Tara Oceans Expedition has added to our knowledge an avalanche of data collected at sea during the 150 sampling operations which started in 2009. Tara’s researchers took 27,000 samples, an exploit that represents a giant step in the field of the infinitely small.
The expedition has discovered a panorama of plankton hitherto unknown. Despite the discovery of 500,000 new microorganisms, “95% of them remain unknown” says Eric Karsenti.
The Tara Oceans Expedition has enabled scientists to measure how marine life is responding to climate change. “The distribution of micro-organisms is in part determined by the environment, latitude and currents” explains Eric Karsenti. “These models should help us predict how marine life is going to evolve in response to climate variation, the carbon cycle in both hemispheres and the overall regulation of the climate.”
On May 22, in a special issue of Science , an international, interdisciplinary, team of scientists maps the biodiversity of a wide range of planktonic organisms, exploring their interactions – mainly parasitic, and how they impact and are affected by their environment, primarily the temperature. Based on a portion of the 35000 samples collected from all the world’s oceans during the 2009-2013 expedition on board the schooner TARA, this data provides the scientific community with unprecedented resources, including a catalogue of several million new genes, that will transform how we study the oceans and assess climate change.
“The finding that temperature shapes which species are present, for instance, is especially relevant in the context of climate change, but to some extent this is just the beginning,” says Chris Bowler, from CNRS. “The resources we’ve generated will allow us and others to delve even deeper, and finally begin to really understand the workings of this invisible world.”
“In view of the Climate Conference in Paris in 2015 (COP21), it is important to understand that plankton biodiversity affects our climate through its ability to store carbon dioxide over large time scales. We should be immediately concerned about these crucial mechanisms” - Romain Troublé, secretary general of Tara Expeditions.
II) Coral ecosystems study
Another of the expedition’s accomplished missions was to carry out a health check on coral ecosystems. In total 102 sites were studied off the coasts of Djibouti, Saint-Brandon, Mayotte and the Gambier Islands. A good state of health was observed on the coral reefs explored and they appeared to be resisting various thermal stresses and temperature increases. However the acidification of the oceans and the invasion of deadly starfish in certain regions is a worry. Samples collected by the Tara Oceans Expedition are currently being studied. The results will tell us if the coral can survive any future increase in temperature.
On the way to the next United Nations Climate Conference (COP21), Tara will be in London from September 9 to 14 to share recent discoveries about the world of plankton.
Please find more results and updated about this expedition in the Tara Expedition Website
The aim of the Tara-Arctic program / Damocles was to identify the current changes in sea ice, atmosphere and ocean to improve our ability to simulate future changes. This research will help to better assess the socio-economic impact that the melt of the perennial Arctic sea ice will have on environment and a domino effect throughout the Northern Hemisphere.
During these two years in the ice sea, Tara was core of the Damocles observations Network, responsible for collecting data on the atmosphere, ice and ocean. Its central location in the heart of the Arctic Ocean also maintained a complex network of autonomous stations scattered in a radius of 500 km around the boat. This was an opportunity, through an ambitious educational program, to relay to the public the scientific information collected in the field during the International Polar Year (2007-2008).
In collaboration with the European research program Damocles, scientists aboard Tara conducted studies in the atmosphere up to an altitude of 2 000 meters, and in the Arctic Ocean to a depth of more than 4000 meters. Data collected included temperature of the air and water, pressure, salinity, wind speed and direction, etc. Analysis of this data will continue for a long time, but the first conclusions seem to confirm the most pessimistic predictions of climatologists: various simulations of the future Arctic climate all foresee the complete disappearance of summer sea ice in the next 10 to 15 years. -
Please find more results and updated about this expedition in the Tara Expedition Website