A SAILING ship on a global expedition to observe the extent of coral bleaching is now checking out the Great Barrier Reef.
Having set out in May last year, the Tara recently reached the halfway point of its expedition.
The schooner has reportedly visited 15 countries and sailed almost 50,000 km from east to west.
The mission, initiated by the Tara Expeditions Foundation, has allowed scientists to collect more than 15,000 samples.
Tara Pacific is supported by the CNRS, CEA, CSM and PSL Research University, as well as several other public and private entities.
In coming days the vessel is expected to sail to New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Palau, China and Taiwan.
Tara is to cross areas of rich biodiversity, including some never previously studied, particularly in China.
Tara departed from Lorient, France, in May 2016, and has sailed half of the 100,000 km of the Tara Pacific 2016-2018 expedition, witnessing “many episodes of massive coral bleaching”.
“The higher the temperature and the longer the exposure to these high temperatures, the more devastating the bleaching” said CNRS researcher and scientific director of the Tara Pacific Mission, Serge Planes.
“The combination of these two factors causes the symbiosis between alga and coral to rupture, thus leading to polyp death when a warming period exceeds three weeks.”
Mr Planes said one could no longer speak of one-off or cyclical episodes of temperature rise, such as the climatic phenomenon El Niño.
“Now, the ocean is warming up globally and summer seasons are getting very hot and increasingly closely spaced in time,” he said.