Tara: International sailboat investigating ocean’s role in climate change arrives in Valparaiso

Tara: International sailboat investigating ocean’s role in climate change arrives in Valparaiso

The floating laboratory that investigates the marine microbiome, to understand how the ocean influences climate change mitigation, arrived at the Main Port. This scientific initiative aims to provide evidence-based tools for future global environmental decisions.

After more than two months of crossing the Chilean sea, the schooner Tara arrived at the port of Valparaiso, its penultimate stop in national territory. There, the crew of the sailing ship, plus scientific authorities collaborating with the mission, participated in a workshop on “France-Chile cooperation in the ocean and climate change: Road to COP 26”, which revealed the latest advances that help to understand the impact of climate change on the oceans.

The mission, carried out thanks to a collaboration between the Tara Océan Foundation and CEODOS Chile, generates an integral sampling of the genetic material of the microorganisms that inhabit the Chilean sea, from Antarctica to Iquique. Last February they arrived in the bay of Puerto Montt, and then passed through Talcahuano. This time, the schooner Tara arrived at the coast of Valparaíso to show part of its expedition.

© Fundación Encuentros del Futuro

Wednesday’s meeting brought together political and scientific authorities, with the participation of the Minister of Environment, Carolina Schmidt; the Minister of Science, Andrés Couve; the director of International Policies of the Tara Ocean Foundation, André Abreu; the director of the Center for Mathematical Modeling and co-coordinator of the mission in Chile, Alejandro Maass; and the director of Environment and Maritime Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Waldemar Coutts, among others.

During the session, the participants discussed how the actions carried out by the Tara sailing vessel can be converted into agreements that contribute to the mitigation of climate change. All this, in view of the next United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26), to be held in early November in Scotland.

Prior to the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the Tara Foundation and other partners joined forces in 2015 to promote the signing of the “Because the Ocean” declaration during COP21, an initiative that today has more than 30 countries. In 2019, during the COP25 held by Chile, the Minister of Environment decided to qualify this conference as the first “Blue COP”.

© Maéva Bardy – Fondation Tara Océan

In addition, Minister Schmidt stated that “the protection of the oceans is fundamental because they capture 30% of anthropogenic emissions, in addition to absorbing 90% of the additional heat generated by global warming. That is why Chile has been a leader in promoting the ocean as an integral part of the response to climate change and guaranteeing the integrity of marine and coastal ecosystems”.

For his part, Waldemar Coutts highlighted that “we must take advantage of the support provided by the start of this year’s United Nations Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development”. During COP 25, significant progress was made to highlight the importance of the ocean as an integral part of the planet’s climate system, and to ensure the integrity of ocean and coastal ecosystems through the launch of a dialogue on ocean and climate change.

“The dialogue was the first step in advancing knowledge on how to protect the ocean so that it can fulfill its role as a climate regulator and carbon sink,” Coutts added. “It is time to stop perceiving the ocean as a victim of climate change and to promote it as the key to its solution,” he said.

André Abreu also pointed out the need to advance in a more efficient transmission of science to experts and national delegations, who work at the same time in the framework of other UN organizations, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), to consolidate the progress achieved so far.

© Fundación Encuentros del Futuro

French-Chilean cooperation in oceanic matters has continued and deepened in a ministerial agreement that creates bilateral cooperation in marine protected areas between Chile’s Ministry of the Environment and the French Biodiversity Agency -now the “French Office for Biodiversity”-.

Roland Dubertrand, French Ambassador to Chile, expressed that both countries “work hand in hand to affirm the relationship between ocean and climate change, very close and necessary for the protection of planetary biodiversity”. In addition, the French representative detailed that both Chile and France “will continue to strengthen their scientific and political cooperation to support international climate negotiations of high ambition, such as the Tara expedition”.

The expedition

The schooner Tara sailed from the port of Lorient, France, at the end of last year and its first stop was Punta Arenas. From there, its onboard laboratory has been collecting different samples to understand the physicochemical characteristics of the microorganisms that inhabit the ocean. In this way, researchers will be able to understand the role that the sea has played in counteracting climate change. This is because through small marine organisms it is possible to absorb carbon dioxide and convert it into oxygen for the ecosystem, among other functions.

But, why start with Chile in this expedition? According to André Abreu, the Chilean continental coast “presents a unique and extraordinarily complete gradient of planktonic ecosystems, in different temperatures and biomes”. This, according to the Tara Foundation member, “makes possible a very complete study of this oceanic microbiome, which is one of the most important aspects in the study of climate change in the sea”.

Another of the reasons why it was decided to investigate the microbiome of the sea points to the collaborative strength between different research centers that participate in an interdisciplinary manner. “Chile has the installed scientific power to integrate with this Tara proposal, which is complex: with genomics, metagenomics, big data analysis, mathematical modeling, Artificial Intelligence, among others,” said Abreu.

© François Aurat – Fondation Tara Océan

For the Minister of Science, Andrés Couve, “the importance of the Tara expedition is that it combines a global concern, such as climate change, with new capabilities that we have as human beings, such as the use of data for the analysis of physical, chemical and biological variables in the oceans”.

“These types of expeditions, which are very massive in terms of data, aim to provide science with all the information and tools possible for decision-making regarding what is happening with climate change in the services provided by the ocean,” explained Alejandro Maass, director of the Center for Mathematical Modeling at the University of Chile and co-coordinator of the Tara expedition in Chile (CEODOS).

Likewise, Camila Fernández, academic at the Department of Oceanography of the Universidad de Concepción and co-coordinator of the mission in Chile, added that “we must increase our capacity to observe the ocean, improve our technology and open new multidisciplinary fields to predict and mitigate from the evidence”. The importance of studying the sea to understand climate change appeared a few years ago, and it was highlighted at the last COP 25, organized by Chile.

© Maéva Bardy – Fondation Tara Océan

In September 2019, the “Special Report on Oceans and the Cryosphere” (SROC), produced by the “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” (IPCC), established a correlation between climate change and the ocean’s ability to continue to store carbon, produce oxygen and support biodiversity.

The Microbiome Mission, organized by the Tara Foundation, and its associated Chilean program CEODOS, seeks to install the discussion on the ocean-biodiversity-climate trilogy and provide a perspective from a transdisciplinary expedition to the political-scientific discussion necessary to address international decisions. “Tara seeks to understand this relationship between the ocean’s microbiome and that in making political decisions we have a scientific basis for action,” emphasizes Alejandro Maass.

The Seremi of Science for the Central Macrozone, María José Escobar, valued this expedition and the contribution of scientific data that it can contribute to decision-making. “The arrival of Tara to the port of Valparaíso is a wake-up call not to forget the importance of studying the oceans, and how their macrobiotic biodiversity has been affected by climate change,” she said.

© Maéva Bardy – Fondation Tara Océan

Nine research centers of excellence in our country are collaborating in this interdisciplinary study: The Center for Mathematical Modeling of the University of Chile (CMM); Center for Climate Science and Resilience (CR2); Center for Dynamic Research on High Latitude Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL); Center for Research on Patagonian Ecosystems (CIEP); Center for Oceanographic Research (COPAS Sur-Austral); Center for Genome Regulation (CRG); Interdisciplinary Center for Aquaculture Research (INCAR); the International Associated Laboratory “Multiscale Adaptive Strategies” (LIA MAST); and the French Institute for Research in Science and Digital Technologies (INRIA-Chile).

Both Maass and Fernandez hope that this expedition will become a constant, in order to carry out longitudinal studies of the ocean’s action in the face of climate change, and to be a reference in this subject that arouses worldwide interest. “We must train the new generation of oceanographers specialized in ocean operations, data management and innovation. We have built the foundations of our scientific knowledge in Chile, now we must apply it to adapt”, concluded Fernández.

© Fundación Encuentros del Futuro

The Tara expedition is expected to continue its journey investigating the marine microbiome off the coast of Chile. After Valparaiso, the schooner will pass through Iquique and then continue on to the Panama Canal. Over the next two years, Tara will travel along the coasts of the South Atlantic, the Antarctic, as well as much of the west coast of Africa, before finally returning to France, its starting point, to deliver its results, which could provide new clues to curb climate change.


Registration Form for the Webinar on Saturday, April 24, 4:00 pm.


For more information follow Tara-Océan and Ceodos Chile on their social networks.


Tara Ocean Foundation:  Facebook    Instagram    Twitter
CEODOS Chile:  Facebook    Instagram    Twitter

Press contacts

Carol Campuzano (CMM) carol@fef.cl
Camille Lextray (Fundación Tara Ocean) camille@fondationtaraocean.org

Posted on Apr 21, 2021 in News