Cape Town - The French schooner Tara arrived in Cape Town as part of a two-year expedition up the West African coast to study how pollution, particularly microplastic pollution, in Africa’s main rivers and climate change are affecting the marine microbiome of the Atlantic ocean.
This arrival marked the final stage of the Tara’s Microbiome Mission, which was initiated by the Tara Ocean Foundation, AtlantECO and numerous scientific partners to study the ocean microbiome and its interactions with the climate and pollution in the Atlantic ocean.
On this West African expedition, the schooner was scheduled to pass seven African countries and stopover in South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Gambia and Senegal.
Tara Ocean Foundation executive director Romain Troublé said they would work with the University of Pretoria and UCT to conduct research on board.
UCT junior research fellow Emma Rocke will be the chief scientist on this leg up the West African coast. She said they would study the Benguela current, which moved up from South Africa towards the coasts of Namibia and Angola and had considerable influence over the South Atlantic ocean due to its abundance of fish and its varied ecosystem.
“The primary goal of this leg is to look at the very powerful Benguela upwelling. We will zigzag our way up the coast from St Helena Bay – as we know there are a lot of red tides that happen there and a lot of low oxygen (which was said to be behind the crayfish and rock lobster walkout) so we want to try to understand how the microbiome is responding to that,” she said.
Rocke said a lot of people relied on the Benguela upwelling for food and jobs so they needed to get a good picture of what was happening there.
The team would also study the effect of nutrients in major African rivers to identify the sources of plastic pollution and assess the impact of this pollution on the marine microbiome of the Atlantic Ocean .
French scientist Clara Trellu explained the basis of what they did on board was to collect samples of plankton and micro-organisms from the water and then bring them back to the labs where they are analysed.