Tara Oceans Expedition Results Underscore Global Importance of Plankton; Over 40 Million Planktonic Genes Revealed; Implications for Global Warming Analysis; Agulhas Rings Separate Plankton Communities

The May 22, 2015 issue of Science features a special section on plankton that includes five articles describing major plankton-focused research efforts of the Tara Oceans expedition. These are the first results released by the multinational Tara Oceans Consortium, which used the 110-foot research schooner Tara, to sample microscopic plankton at 210 sites and depths up to 2,000 meters in all the major oceanic regions during expeditions from 2009 through 2013. The work, which included the largest-ever ocean sequencing effort ever undertaken, identified over 40 million planktonic genes, many completely new to science. The results also have implications for the measurement of global climate change, as well as other major implications. When you mention rich ecosystems that are vital for life on Earth, people tend to think of rainforests, but ocean plankton are actually just as crucial. The microscopic beings that drift on the upper layer of the oceans are globally referred to as "plankton;" together they produce half of our oxygen, act as carbon sinks, influence our weather, and serve as the base of the ocean food web that sustains the larger fish and marine mammals that we depend upon or draw delight from. "Beyond the cutting-edge science that was developed thanks to our collaborative work with the Tara Expéditions Foundation, this adventure is also about showing people all over the world how important the ocean is for our own well-being," says Dr. Eric Karsenti, Director of Tara Oceans, from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). Plankton are a diverse group of organisms that live in the water column and cannot swim against a current. They provide a crucial source of food to many large aquatic organisms, such as fish and whales.
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