The plankton collected over the course of the Tara expeditions are gradually revealing their secrets. From 2009-2013, the schooner supported by the Veolia Foundation sailed the world’s oceans and observed the world of plankton. Marine biologists and oceanographers joined forces to analyse a set of samples. A non-abrasive in situ imaging method – without physical sampling, instead using an underwater camera in the depths of the oceans – enabled the organisms to be studied directly in their marine environments without damaging them.
The scientists highlighted the importance in all the planet’s oceans of a group of large planktonic organisms. These organisms are known as Rhizaria and they account for 33% of total large animal plankton in the world’s oceans, according to the findings of the research. Rhizaria therefore contribute to 5% of overall marine biomass. The presence of Rhizaria in the world’s oceans had gone completely unnoticed until this study was conducted. The discovery was the subject of a paper published in late April in the prestigious scientific review Nature. Plankton are slowly continuing to reveal their secrets, bringing to light previously unsuspected abundance and diversity.
Plankton – the oceans’ biological pump
Plankton may be largely unknown but they are vital to our planet’s balance. Plankton are a highly diverse group of microscopic beings which enable us to confirm that the oceans are the source of half of all the oxygen produced on Earth every day. Plankton are also at the base of the oceanic food chain which feeds fish and marine mammals.
More information on Tara Oceans here.