Tara expeditions

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Laboratories of the University of Perpignan were involved in 3 expeditions of the Tara Foundation aboard the vessel TARA:

  • The CEFREM laboratory participated in the TARA OCEANS expedition from 2009-2013
  • The CRIOBE laboratory provided scientific coordination for TARA PACIFIC from 2016 to 2018
  • The CEFREM laboratory participated in the TARA MICROPLASTICS expedition in 2019

TARA PACIFIC expedition - 2016 2018

Having set sail on 28 May 2016 from Lorient in Brittany, scientific research vessel TARA returned to its home port on 27 October 2018 having covered 100,000 km across the whole Pacific Ocean – from east to west and from north to south.

Through the sheer geographical scope of the voyage and the 36,000 samples taken from 30 different countries, this scientific expedition has paved the way to the greatest ever study undertaken of the planet's coral reefs. More than 10 years of research will be needed to analyse all of the data gathered. These results will be crucial: they will be used to study the impact of climate change and of regional management and development on coral reefs. They will help us to understand how to better preserve coral – which is essential for the lives of some 500 million people throughout the world.

The CRIOBE (Centre for Island Research and Environment Observatory) laboratory (USR 3278 EPHE-UPVD-CNRS) has played a key role in this adventure: Serge Planes served as the scientific director and Emilie Boissin, the scientific coordinator. Working alongside the Tara's crew, they chose the vessel's route and decided on where stopovers should be made based on scientific interest. They were also behind all the logistics organisation. Six other researchers and two laboratory engineers were also actively involved in the expedition.

Coral reefs are home to nearly 30% of marine biodiversity, despite only covering between 0.08% and 0.16% of the oceans' surface area. They harbour around a third of all the marine species that have been discovered so far (nearly 100,000 species). Like the primary tropical forests, they are an exceptional reservoir brimming with biodiversity. “One square kilometre of coral reef is crammed with as much biodiversity as all of France”, says Serge Planes. Their health is therefore vital for the diversity of the species that make their home within them, as well as for humanity. In addition to biodiversity considerations, coral reefs also function as fully-fledged coastal barriers, protecting the inhabitants of tropical coasts during storms and cyclones, as well as being vital sources of income for many economies in developing countries. They are a direct source of livelihood for more than 500 million people throughout the world thanks to fishing. And the environmental services that they provide go way beyond just that: they protect coastal regions from erosion, tourism, etc.

Contact : Serge Planes

TARA PACIFIC map (2016-2018)

TARA MICROPLASTIC expedition - 2019

In June 2019, Tara left its home port in Lorient, Brittany for a new scientific mission focusing on microplastics. This time, scientists are focusing on where most microplastics come from, which are now omnipresent in the planet's seas and oceans: rivers. What are these microplastics made of and how are they distributed throughout sea waters? What impact do they have on marine biodiversity? How do we stop microplastics haemorrhaging out into our oceans?

The CEFREM (Marine Environment and Training Research Centre) is internationally known for its expertise in studying particle flows from rivers to marine coasts. The laboratory will therefore play a major role in this scientific expedition.

Xavier Durrieu de Madron and Wolfgang Ludwig (a researcher at the national centre for scientific research and a UPVD Professor) will board the vessel in early August in Bordeaux for a 15-day mission ending when it reaches the Ebro Delta in Spain.

UPVD PhD student Lisa Weiss will also travel aboard Tara – from the Ebro Delta to Toulon. Their aim will be to take samples of microplastics from river mouths and sea waters around these two major rivers – the Ebro and the Rhône.

Philippe Kerhervé, a UPVD researcher at the CEFREM, has been conducting research into plastics in our seas for several years now. He has developed this research area in the laboratory.

Wolfgang Ludwig : ludwig@univ-perp.fr
Xavier Durrieu de Madron : demadron@univ-perp.fr
Philippe Kerhervé : kerherve@univ-perp.fr

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Date of update December 11, 2019