French research expedition Tara Pacific anchors in Hong Kong [en]
French scientific schooner Tara will make a port call in Hong Kong from 7 to 15 March 2018. Tara will berth at the Central Pier no9 and will be open to the public for tours on 10 & 11 March 2018. This leg is part of the Tara Pacific 2016-2018 expedition to conduct research on the adaptability of coral reefs to climate change.
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Based in France, the Tara Expeditions Foundation is a recognized public-interest organization dedicated to the oceans. We have developed a unique and innovative Ocean science that can predict, anticipate and better prepare us for the future. Tara Expeditions uses this high-level scientific expertise to raise public awareness and educate young people, mobilize policy makers, and enable developing countries to access this new knowledge.
A floating laboratory, the schooner Tara has traveled nearly 400,000 kilometers since 2003, making stopovers in more than 60 countries during 11 expeditions conducted in collaboration with laboratories and international organizations of excellence (CNRS, CEA, EMBL, PSL, MIT, NASA, etc).
The research schooner Tara left her home port of Lorient on May 28th 2016 for a new expedition in the Asian Pacific. The boat will sail nearly 100,000 km around the Pacific Ocean for more than two years. The interdisciplinary team of scientists aboard, coordinated by the CNRS and the Scientific Centre of Monaco (CSM), will examine in a new way the biodiversity of coral reefs and their evolution in response to climate change and human activities. This adventure is sponsored by the CNRS, PSL, CEA, CSM and many other public and private partners.
Coral reefs cover less than 0.2% of the oceans’ surface, yet they include nearly 30% of known marine biodiversity. Their health is crucial to the diversity of species, and also for humanity. Studying this fragile and endangered ecosystem is a priority since a large number of reefs have been disappearing in recent years.
From east to west and from north to south, Tara will criss-cross the Pacific Ocean to explore the hidden diversity of coral reefs and gain a better understanding of their capacity to adapt to climate change. From the Panama Canal to the archipelago of Japan (2016-2017), from New Zealand to China (2017-2018), the schooner will traverse 11 time zones of the world’s largest ocean, and visit the most remote islands and reefs.
This expedition is unique in that it will cover such a huge geographical area – the Pacific Ocean – where over 40% of the world’s coral reefs are concentrated. A study on this scale has never before been accomplished.
According to Serge Planes, CNRS researcher and scientific director of the expedition, “Tara Pacific will explore each reef ‘s hidden biodiversity – genomic, genetic, viral and bacterial – in order to compare it with the biodiversity of the surrounding body of water. Our goal is to get a real idea of the overall diversity of a coral colony.”
This approach will give us new information concerning the still-unknown role of biological, chemical and physical parameters in the life of coral colonies and their ability to adapt to change.
The Tara Pacific expedition will traverse a very wide gradient of biodiversity, culminating in the “Coral Triangle” of Southeast Asia. During the expedition, 40 different archipelagos will be studied, each in exactly the same way, so as to detect variations in the presence of 3 reef species : 2 corals and 1 small invertebrate in the hydroid family.
Adopting a comparative and interdisciplinary approach, scientists will review the recent past of coral colonies to observe the contemporary evolution of the reefs, and to envisage the future, especially through computer simulations.
Besides the state of health of each reef and its biodiversity at different levels, the scientific team will focus on the capacities of resistance, adaptation and resilience of the reef ecosystems. A last aspect of our study will focus on the potential applications of coral biology to medical research.
“The scientific community needs new data, but local and international groups need this information too. Tara will contribute to a better understanding of issues affecting the reefs, these cradles of biodiversity so important for the future of some populations, especially on small islands”, says Etienne Bourgois, President of the Tara Expeditions Foundation.
The Tara Expeditions Foundation will use this expedition to inform people in the political and business worlds, to raise public awareness about the most pressing environmental challenges and problems faced by populations that depend on the ocean’s good health. Many stopovers in the Pacific and in Asia will allow us to share information on environmental issues with as broad a public as possible.
Starting at the end of February, Tara will be making ports of call in China over a period of 2 months. This will be a particularly important part of the Tara Pacific expedition, involving scientific, educational and political issues.
CHINA : AN ESSENTIAL PARTNER IN THE CLIMATE AGENDA FOR PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND OCEAN
China has risen at a staggering pace to be the world’s second largest economy. After establishing a system called “eco-compensation” to prevent damage to the environment at the source, China has at the same time become an international scientific power. Today President Xi Jinping is moving forward with a policy of eco-responsibility, first announced at the COP 21 in Paris, to reinforce cooperation among emerging markets and developing countries in implementing the “Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development”. With the goal of building a sustainable, interconnected energy community focused on low carbon use and green energy, the People’s Republic of China aims to become a major ecological force. A movement that the French Foundation Tara Expeditions proposes to accompany over the long term.
PARTNERSHIP WITH CHINESE SCIENTIFIC INSTITUTIONS
China plays a key role today in scientific research. The Tara Foundation is integrating China’s expertise during the Tara Pacific expedition, and has already forged links with Xiamen and Guanxi Universities, as well as with other Chinese research facilities, in the framework of long-term partnerships.
“When Tara anchors in Xiamen (in 2018) alongside the exploration/research ship Tan Kah Kee, it will be like the meeting of two souls. Though they come from opposite sides of the planet, no ocean, no matter how vast, no challenge, as ambitious as it may be, will prevent them from achieving their common goals : better understanding and protecting our ocean,” said Min Han Dai, Director & Professor, Xiamen University (XMU), Department of Earth Science and Technology (FEST) and State Key Lab of Marine Environmental Science (MEL).
RAISING AWARENESS AND EDUCATION OF CHINESE CHILDREN : THE OCEAN’S BEAUTY AND EXTREME FRAGILITY
In the past 25 years China has become the world’s greatest consumer of energy. Today children play a key role for the future of the planet. Teaching children about the major role of the climate and its regulation by the oceans is more necessary than ever. It is vital for the well-being of humanity. Faced with the current challenges linking economic growth and environmental protection, raising awareness of young people about the energy transition is essential. This includes the education of children. The Tara Foundation wishes to accompany China in this challenge.