On the road to Paris Climate: Greenland, Stockholm, London | Tara, a schooner for the planet

On the road to Paris Climate: Greenland, Stockholm, London

© F.Latreille/Tara Expéditions

June-September 2015

In preparation for the Paris Climate Conference 2015, Tara continues her mission as sentinel of the Ocean: To observe, understand, and also to share, explain, and make visible the least-known aspects of the Ocean. Between two expeditions, from one port-of-call to another, Tara is always active.

Having left Lorient on June 21, the schooner will visit the east coast of Greenland via Rouen and then Iceland. Well known to Tara, the regions of the Arctic Circle reveal and at the same time catalyze climate change. This voyage will allow us to take a new look at the high latitudes of the globe, before returning to Paris at the end of the year.

In line with our 2015 commitment, Tara will sail to Greenland, with the participation of oceanographer Gaby Gorsky, to partially repeat the Ecopolaris mission conducted in 2004 with the same team of GREA ornithologists on board. On this occasion, Tara will take part in the filming of the new documentary “Ocean & Climate” directed by Christophe Cousin.

The scientific program of Tara Ecopolaris in Greenland, 2015

The east coast of Greenland is one of the regions of the globe most affected by current environmental changes, but unfortunately one of the least known. It is therefore particularly important to continue the ecological monitoring undertaken since 1979 by GREA in the Fjords region (72-74° N), as well as the work done in 2004 during the first Tara mission.

Tara Greenland: 2004-2015

In 2004, thanks to the unprecedented logistics provided by Tara Expeditions, in just 2 months GREA gathered more data on northeast Greenland’s seabirds than had been documented in 2 centuries by all previous expeditions!

The results of this exceptional mission highlighted the tendency of certain southern species to increase  (e.g., kittiwakes, puffins, black-backed gulls) while the typical Arctic species appeared to be stable or declining (eg. dovekies, ivory gulls and Brunnich guillemots) – tangible impacts of accelerated climate warming in the Arctic regions.

By revisiting these same colonies, the main scientific goals of this new Tara expedition on the coast of Greenland will be to: (1) complete the mapping of seabird colonies in northeast Greenland, (2) assess the changes since 2004 in the size of breeding populations and (3) compare the current levels of contamination (by heavy metals in particular) with those found in 2004 in two of Greenland’s emblematic species: the eider duck and the pink-footed goose.

This work will be led by members of the GREA in collaboration with several French and Danish researchers from the Universities of Franche-Comté and La Rochelle in France, and Aarhus in Denmark.

The Groupe de Recherche en Ecologie Arctique (GREA) is a French non-profit organization. For over 40 years, Olivier Gilg and Brigitte Sabard, along with volunteers from GREA have acquired unique experience in the ecology of Arctic regions.

Carte groenland

One of the major questions motivating the Ecopolaris missions

What do marine birds, which respond very quickly to changes in their environment, tell us about the health of Arctic marine ecosystems?

Aboard Tara to coordinate this work

Olivier GILG: president of  GREA, PhD in ecology and research associate at the University of Burgundy, Olivier is one of the rare French specialists of Arctic ecosystems. Author of some 30 scientific publications and scientific director of the Ecopolaris program, he is also, in parallel to his work in the Arctic, scientific director of the network of nature reserves in France (RNF).

Brigitte Sabard: vice-president of GREA and scientific assistant for the 25th Anniversary of Ecopolaris, Brigitte coordinates logistics and organization of the missions. She is also a consultant in environmental education, a lecturer at the University of Burgundy, and head of educational projects for Tara Expeditions.

Planned schedule

  • June 27 – Departure from Rouen
  • July 8 – Tara’s arrival at Akureyi (Iceland); departure for Greenland on July 9
  • July 11 – arrival at Constable Point (Greenland)
  • July 11 to July 21 – work in southern zone
  •  July 28 to August 7 – work in northern zone
  • August 11 – return to Akureyi (Iceland)
  • August 13 – Tara leaves Iceland for Sweden

Tara will stopover in Sweden and then London before returning to France for the 2015 Climate Conference in Paris (COP21).

Into the wild

Cold sea currents from the North Pole and Arctic icepack isolate the Northeast coast of Greenland for 10 months a year, making it very difficult to access. Still wild and only partially explored, this region is strictly protected as a National Park, the largest in the world – 2 times the size of France!