” NOTwe are today French laboratory hosting the most scientific programs supported by the French Polar Institute “, points out Christophe Guinet, director of the CEBC. A situation inherited from the specialties of the first researchers assigned to this CNRS research unit, now associated with the University of La Rochelle.
“The CEBC is 50 years old and this longevity is one of its characteristics. We rely on observations, some of which, for the TAAF, started seventy years ago. We are the third generation of researchers to work on this data ”, specifies Christophe Guinet, who points out the trend reversal operated by his supervisors with regard to a laboratory whose usefulness was questioned in the 1980s.
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“Some doubted the value of continuing to follow, for example, populations of large albatrosses, once established that they lived to sixty years of age, breed every two years and other descriptions of the species. “ Today, these long series of observational data on about thirty species of birds and marine mammals have become a real asset, an essential basis for understanding environmental changes. The laboratory installed in Chizé is one of the rare in France, but also elsewhere in the world, to have such series over the long term.
Ocean State Sentinels
“In Deux-Sèvres as in Kerguelen or in Adélie land, our teams have in common to work in evolutionary ecology: how species adapt – or not – to changes in their environments. Knowing that today things change very quickly due to human activities: alteration of habitats, pollution, overexploitation of natural resources, global warming. “
Albatrosses, penguins, orcas, elephant seals are sentinels of the state of the oceans in which they evolve, and the observations of the CEBC, which developed fine techniques of bio-telemetry and bio-logging, allow to deepen knowledge on these marine environments. “While monitoring the behavior of elephant seals that can dive to – 2,000 m, the devices transmit oceanographic parameters such as temperature, water salinity, diffuse oxygen, density of phytoplankton. This shows us how the biology of the ocean is changing. “
Informal coast guard
The CEBC director highlights the contributions of researchers working on marine predators in terms of species conservation: “Our observations provide the basis for considering regulatory measures. ” Some contributions are more unexpected. Observing howler albatrosses foraging has revealed the presence of illegal fishing vessels in some areas of the vast southern ocean. Large seabirds act as informal coast guards.
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Overall, the ecological research carried out by Chizé’s teams is fueling awareness “Of an unprecedented and less publicized biodiversity erosion crisis than global warmingt climatic ”, notes Christophe Guinet.