TARA PACIFIC | Tara, a schooner for the planet

TARA PACIFIC

© Lauric Thiault

2016-2018

Tara will set sail for two years from the end of May 2016. This upcoming expedition will focus on the resilience of corals and their adaptation to change in the Pacific Ocean. The mission will also conduct an integrated biodiversity review, from genes to ecosystems.

Our main objective will be to understand the evolution of coral reefs in the context of climate and demographic changes. 

Although covering only 0.02% of the ocean’s surface, coral reefs harbor 25% of ocean biodiversity and provide direct livelihood in terms of food, to nearly a billion people, mainly in the Coral Triangle of South Asia. Ecological services from coral reefs (fisheries, tourism, coastal protection) are estimated at about 30 billion USD per year. This ecosystem should be a priority for study at the global level because coral reefs are dying. Recent estimates indicate that about 20% of reefs have disappeared forever, 25% are in grave danger and an additional 25% will be threatened by 2050. Coral reefs are particularly affected by global change  – the accumulated effect of human population increase and climate change. Reefs are undergoing specific anthropogenic pressures specific to coastal ecosystems. Improving their sustainable management is urgent, and this will happen only by increasing and integrating scientific knowledge in their governance.
The TARA PACIFIC expedition defines the scope of the research with the aim of understanding the evolution of coral reefs in the context of demographic and climate change. Coral reefs have often been at the forefront of research on climate change, due to bleaching (mostly related to the increase in temperature), ocean acidification, and concerns about reef growth process. But the increase in world population and UN projections in this context show more imminent threats. The Coral Triangle area (Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Papua) has over 30% of the world’s reefs and it is considered that nearly 80% of the reefs are threatened with extinction in the short term due to population growth in the area causing overexploitation, pollution, construction, and ultimately the degradation of coastal areas where coral reefs are located.

OBJECTIVES

By crossing the Pacific region from east to west, following an increasing gradient of biodiversity to the “Coral Triangle” zone, considered a  “hot spot” of biodiversity, the TARA PACIFIC Expedition will have the opportunity to:

 1) Answer major questions about the health of remote reefs far from direct human disturbance

2) Explore the potential for resistance, adaptation and resilience of these habitats to climate change,

3) Study the biodiversity of these reefs at different levels of complexity, from the gene to the eco-system and

4) Develop applications of this research for human health. It is in this context that the mission will take place.

THE PROGRAM

Two parallel approaches are planned: 

1) An East-West transect (the first year) and a North-South transect (the second year) – continuous monitoring of the diversity of coral colonies in 21 locations on year 1, sampling 3 different corals, 1 fish and the water column on 3 sites per location, 10 colonies per site

2) Specific targeted studies on contextual issues of the sites visited.

 (5 specific projects are planned in year 1 – 2016/2017 – year 2 is still work in progress)

Project 1: July 2016
Site: Malpelo (Colombia)
Subject: Shark Biology and Conservation
Objective: To be defined in partnership with the Malpelo Foundation and KAUST

Project 2 – October 2016
Site: French Polynesia
Subject: Biodiversity and production of unexplored Polynesian atolls
Objective: Analysis of biomass and production of the atoll’s outer banks

Project 3 – November 2016
Site: French Polynesia
Subject: Functional biodiversity of coral holobiont
Objective: To better understand the interactions between coral, bacteria and dinoflagellates

Project 4 – December 2016
Site: Futuna Islands
Subject: Biodiversity inventory
Objective: Diversity of benthos and pelagos

Project 5 – February 2017
Japan
Site: Along the Kuroshio Current
Subject: Effect of the Kuroshio on benthic and pelagic biodiversity
Objective: To study the effect of a body of water with temperature changes on animal populations

 

Other Expeditions :

- TARA MEDITERRANEE – 2014

- TARA OCEANS – 2009/2013

- TARA ARTIC – 2006/2008