Antarctica by sailboat

Antarctica by sailboat
In a few weeks, Belgian researchers, led by Professor Bruno Danis (Laboratory of Marine Biology, Faculty of Science, ULB), will set sail for Antarctica. Their objective is to contribute to our understanding of the responses of ecosystems to the environmental changes underway in the Southern Ocean. Originality: the mission will take place on... a sailing boat!

On February 15, nine Belgian researchers will set sail for Antarctica. Led by Bruno Danis, researcher at the Laboratory of Marine Biology of the Faculty of Science of the ULB, they will leave Ushuaïa (Argentina) and will arrive in the Antarctic Peninsula (in the Grandidier Channel), during the month of March. Originality of the mission: the researchers will use a sailboat as a research platform! This mode of transport has a limited environmental impact and will allow, thanks to its agility, to reach little studied areas and to adapt to the conditions imposed by the environment in which it will evolve.

The objective of the "TANGO1" mission is to contribute to our understanding of the responses of Antarctic marine ecosystems to climate change, particularly at shallow depths. As climate change is significant and intensifying in the polar regions, drastic changes in ecosystem structure and function are expected and their magnitude is still difficult to predict, while the Southern Ocean plays a connecting role between all oceans. The ongoing debate at the IPCC and SCAR level highlights the lack of knowledge on the different thresholds and steady states of ecosystems.

It is also not known to what extent transition points will lead to tipping points, yet this knowledge is crucial in managing ecosystems to maintain long-term habitability in the context of global change and to protect biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of the natural environment.

By studying ecological thresholds at different levels of organization, including species, species interactions, populations, processes and functions, and entire ecosystems, with a particular focus on the benthos (organisms living in close contact with the seafloor), TANGO aims to identify not only habitability conditions, but also factors that compromise habitability, such as carbon cycle imbalance. Researchers will therefore carry out detailed work on biodiversity and oceanography in different fields, combining a range of traditional and more modern techniques (scuba diving, mapping via aerial and underwater drones, 3D imaging, modeling, biodiversity inventories, measurement of matter and energy fluxes at the atmosphere/ice/sea interfaces, experimental incubations, studies of bacterial symbioses, isotopic food webs and environmental genetics).

The mission will last until March 19 (return to Belgium).