Tara Oceans: towards global ocean ecosystems biology

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2020 Aug;18(8):428-445. doi: 10.1038/s41579-020-0364-5. Epub 2020 May 12.


A planetary-scale understanding of the ocean ecosystem, particularly in light of climate change, is crucial. Here, we review the work of Tara Oceans, an international, multidisciplinary project to assess the complexity of ocean life across comprehensive taxonomic and spatial scales. Using a modified sailing boat, the team sampled plankton at 210 globally distributed sites at depths down to 1,000 m. We describe publicly available resources of molecular, morphological and environmental data, and discuss how an ecosystems biology approach has expanded our understanding of plankton diversity and ecology in the ocean as a planetary, interconnected ecosystem. These efforts illustrate how global-scale concepts and data can help to integrate biological complexity into models and serve as a baseline for assessing ecosystem changes and the future habitability of our planet in the Anthropocene epoch.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity
  • Biology / methods
  • Climate Change
  • Ecosystem*
  • Humans
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Plankton / growth & development*