Welcome to the TANGO expeditions website!

The vision driving our expeditions is to promote the use of nimble vessels (sailboats) to fill knowledge gaps about marine biodiversity in the Southern Ocean, in a targeted fashion, while limiting our environmental impact to the strict minimum.

In the framework of the RECTO project funded by the Belgian Science Policy Office, the Belgica 121 expedition aimed at carrying out a biodiversity census in the Western Antarctic Peninsula in March 2019, and to test-case the potential for a nimble sampling platform (the Australis sailboat). The expedition beared a strong historic link to the first scientific expedition to overwinter in Antarctica in 1897-99 recording the first intertidal biodiversity data, 120 years ago. This historic expedition was led by Adrien de Gerlache, onboard the RV Belgica.

In February 2023 and 2024, we will be running two consecutive expeditions, based on the B121 concept (Danis et al. 2022): TANGO1 and TANGO2.

The expeditions will be focusing on several specific research priorities or targets as identified by SDG 13 (Climate action), SDG 14 (Life below water), SCAR and IPCC and as endorsed by Belgium by its commitment to the Antarctic Treaty and the Climate convention in Paris. The effects of climatic fluctuations on natural polar ecosystems remain poorly understood and the unravelling of these processes represents one of the research priorities identified by these global agreements. By developing a mechanistic framework to predict tipping points or ecological thresholds for the habitability of coastal Antarctic ecosystems, we can identify the potential of these extreme environments to support and preserve life and analyse the consequences of degradation of habitability conditions and the associated biodiversity loss. As climatic changes are prominent and intensifying in polar regions, dramatic shifts in structure and function of ecosystems may take place and will be difficult, if not impossible, to reverse. The ongoing debate at the level of the IPCC and SCAR highlights the lack of knowledge on different thresholds and different ecosystem states, their habitability and stability, and whether they are true alternate states of the same system. It is also unclear to what extent transition points are thresholds, while this knowledge is crucial in ecosystem management to sustain habitability in the long term in a context of global change and for the protection of biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of the natural environment. By investigating ecological thresholds at different levels of organization, including species, species interactions, populations, processes and functions, and whole ecosystems with a focus on the benthos (organisms living in strict contact with the seafloor), we will be able to identify not only the requirements of habitability, but also the factors that undermine habitability such as the imbalance of the carbon cycle.