PSL attends first United Nations Ocean Conference

Conference ONU sur les Océans

From June 5-9, Fiji and Sweden will host the first Ocean Conference at UN Headquarters in New York, alongside World Oceans Day on June 8.

PSL Environnement, the scientific arm of PSL devoted to environmental issues, is closely involved in studying coral reefs and how they are evolving in response to climate change. The entity will be participating in this high-level event, which is a unique opportunity for the world to reverse the rapid decline in the health of our oceans and seas with concrete solutions.

Serge Planes, director of PSL Environnement and scientific director of the Tara expedition and the Coral labex, will be aboard the schooner currently in port in Fiji. This call had long been planned to coincide with the first Ocean Conference. For Tara Pacific, it is an opportunity not only to collect samples around Fiji as part of the larger expedition, but also to present its initial results on the health of coral reefs in collaboration with ICRI (International Initiative for Coral Reefs), for which France is in charge of the secretariat. After 12 months in the Pacific, the Tara Pacific expedition has observed the impact of coral bleaching and death.
According to Planes, head of the Tara Pacific expedition and director of PSL Environnement, “2015-2016 with its El Niño conditions, and the increasingly warm climate in 2016-2017 have caused bleaching and death among Pacific corals. Mortality rates are high enough to raise the question of whether corals, and coral reefs, will be able to recover and come back to life.” He continues, “We are probably on the cusp of a major change for coral reefs; even if they do not die off, there is no doubt that tomorrow’s coral reefs will not resemble today’s.

We can expect less diversity, fewer species, and a change in what they produce.” At the conference, Planes will give a first-ever presentation of the overall evolution of Pacific coral reefs in the past 30 years.  His aim is to create a better understanding of what we can expect and use it to anticipate conservation policies.


PSL Environnement, a true cross-disciplinary intersection at PSL

The mission of Tara, which set off from Lorient on May 28, 2016 for a 2-year expedition in Asia Pacific, is to analyze the mechanisms corals use to adapt to climate change. 70 scientists will take turns aboard the vessel. While coral reefs cover less than 0.2% of the ocean floor, they are home to nearly 30% of known marine biodiversity. Their health is therefore crucial not only to the diverse species they shelter, but also to humanity. Studying this fragile, threatened ecosystem has become a priority as large sections of reefs have disappeared in recent years. PSL Environnement has therefore made the topic a priority for its research programs.