x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Scientists take the waters to help ensure planet's health

A team of scientists sail into Abu Dhabi as part a three-year expedition to collect water samples from all the world's oceans.

Daniel Cron, a team scientist, on the Tara.
Daniel Cron, a team scientist, on the Tara.

ABU DHABI // A team of scientists has sailed into the capital as part a three-year expedition to collect water samples from all the world's oceans. The scientists aboard the 36-metre sailboat Tara, which set off from France in September, hope that a study of the microscopic organisms from the water samples collected along their 150,000km journey will help to chart the effects of climate change.

"The idea is to make a basic description of the state of biodiversity in all the world's oceans so that we can have a reference base from the beginning of this century" said Stephane Pesant, one of the scientists aboard the Tara. "Then, in the future, when scientists want to go back and chart changes they can have a point of reference." Mr Pesant, based at the University of Bremen in Germany, said the Gulf was particularly interesting because of its natural currents.

"In this area there is a large-scale circular current called a gyre, which has special physical and chemical properties that make it very interesting to study. It is too early to comment on any data we have picked up here but there is a lot to look at." The Tara team has located two sampling stations in the Gulf and will spend a full day at each site, taking water samples repeatedly from 8am until midnight.

The samples will be filtered, and all the small creatures and micro-organisms collected will be stored, then sent by courier to laboratories in Europe and North America for genetic analyses. "We do some testing on board but our time is limited, so we mainly focus on collecting the data and sending it to land for further analysis," Mr Pesant said. The Tara arrived at Mina Zayed from the southern Red Sea port of Djibouti and will leave tomorrow morning for Muscat.

After travelling through the Gulf, the Tara will make its way across the Indian Ocean to Mumbai and then head south, past Madagascar, to Cape Town, South Africa, where it will complete the expedition's first year. During its second and third years the vessel will explore the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans. The expedition's main sponsor is the French fashion designer Agnès B, who has set up a foundation to support social, environmental and humanitarian work.

aseaman@thenational.ae