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Overturning the situation to put biodiversity and the Ocean at the top of our priorities
“Reflecting our lives since the emergence of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, the upcoming World Ocean Day is not what we had hoped for”, says Romain Troublé, executive director of the Foundation. The Ocean was to receive all due attention from the highest national and international political authorities in Lisbon, where a United Nations conference dedicated to ocean preservation was to take place, as well as in Marseilles during the World Conservation Congress. Instead, these events are postponed sine die, and a 0,1-micron virus has caused a historic fallow period for all marine and coastal ecosystems, and fisheries worldwide. “We have to go back to the last world wars to witness such a positive impact on marine biodiversity”, Romain says. “While plans are being made to relaunch the world economy, this crisis forces us to reflect on how to put the Ocean, and, more broadly, biodiversity, at the core of our development models."
The virus currently impacting our lives could have come from the ocean.
For the past 10 years, the Tara Ocean Foundation and our associated research institutes have been discovering new microscopic organisms - viruses, bacteria, micro-algae - and studying their interactions. By storing carbon, producing oxygen, and transforming solar and chemical energies into organic matter vital to the entire marine food chain, and all living creatures, this true microbiome constantly provides us with invaluable services. These tiny inhabitants of the Ocean are essential to life, just like our intestinal microbiota.
But we still know too little. “Despite rapid advances in biomedical science, the current crisis is a reminder of the essential role played by scientific research, and the urgent need to expand our knowledge more quickly, in order to protect ourselves from tomorrow’s likely crises", says Eric Karsenti, biologist, EMBL research director, and CNRS Gold Medal.
Based on these observations, the Tara Ocean Foundation is more than ever ready for action. We will continue and increase our involvement in research on marine microbiome development, the vital services it provides, and how these services are affected by pollution or global warming.
In collaboration with our associated scientific partners, the Foundation is also developing its research on the links between environment and biodiversity, focusing on potential consequences on human health. The Foundation’s expertise is also being mobilized to ensure that the necessary economic recovery is not detrimental to recent advances in the fight against plastic pollution in the Ocean.
Human health and biodiversity are inseparable. By destroying biodiversity, we reveal our own fragility. By studying and preserving biodiversity, we can reverse the situation and start protecting what matters most.