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According to the IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) 66% of marine environments are thought to be altered by human activities. Several dozen species including coral reefs, sharks, rays, crustaceans and so on, are already threatened by extinction. From Pau, TotalEnergies is leading three Research & Development programs to preserve biodiversity on its sites: ROOT dedicated to the restoration of damaged mangroves, REEF for the reconstruction of coral reefs and REMBOW to study the biodiversity of offshore wind sites.

"Loss of biodiversity owing to human activity is the sixth mass extinction in history. Faced with this crisis, TotalEnergies has decided to dedicate more human and financial resources to R&D, to support biodiversity, improve our understanding of the challenges, evaluate the interactions with the ecosystems where we operate, measure the potential impact of our actions and induce positive gains in biodiversity. A vital approach for our current and future activities".

Thomas Merzi,
Head of the R&D biodiversity section at TotalEnergies – Centre Scientifique et Technique Jean Feger – CSTJF Pau


ROOT, restoring damaged mangroves

Mangroves develop in the coastal intertidal zone. It comprises essentially salt-tolerant trees and shrubs, able to live in shallow waters. Today, mangroves cover around 75% of the tropical coasts, i.e. 150,000 km² worldwide, and represents an ecosystem with a rich biodiversity which is crucial to the survival of local communities. But it is under threat… In 2020, the FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) raised the alarm to the fact that over the last thirty years, the mangrove net area has decreased by 10,000 km².

Since 2018, TotalEnergies has been working with Seaboost, a start-up, on the ROOT project, which aims to restore degraded mangroves using biomimetics, i.e. using solutions inspired by nature, rather than by planting seeds that are affected by waves, tides and storms, with a low success rate.

Pilots - in degraded areas, the process involves re-establishing conditions conducive to mangrove development, so that it naturally reclaims its rights. Physical barriers are installed to reduce the power of the sea and give the environment the opportunity to recover salt and sediments that will encourage its natural regeneration. A TotalEnergies/Seaboost patent has been registered for the process. An initial pilot was run at Cap d’Agde in the Occitania region of France, in which the ROOT system was tested to curb coastline erosion. A second pilot began at the end of 2023 in Cameroon, in partnership with different local actors (university, etc.). The aim is to validate the effectiveness of ROOT - modeling, swell and current attenuation - and to raise awareness of the biomimetic restoration of the mangrove among the local population. The results are expected for 2026.


REEF, creating coral nurseries

Another R&D project led by TotalEnergies involves the development of an effective solution to naturally restore corals, which will help offset the impact of certain operations. Just like ROOT, REEF is inspired by nature. Up to now, coral reefs were restored using coral cuttings grafted onto different substrates, and the success rate was often rather low. In the REEF project, TotalEnergies installs artificial reefs close to healthy corals, and waits for them to be naturally colonized by the larvae. It’s a kind of coral nursery, from which the colonized structures can later be moved to different sites where coral reefs are under threat. The method, created by Seaboost and other partners including CRIOBE, a research center of excellence focusing on coral reefs in French Polynesia, is less “stressful” on the environment. A year after the first 18 artificial reefs were immersed in Qatari waters, the colonization of the substrate is satisfactory, but it will take at least three years before the first transfers can be made. To be continued!


REMBOW, observing biodiversity around offshore wind turbines

Real-time data, before, during and after construction, is required to determine the true impact of offshore wind turbines on biodiversity. Which is the precise purpose of the instrumented and connected REMBOW (Real-Time Ecosystem Monitoring Buoy for Offshore Wind) system, developed by TotalEnergies and the IFREMER since 2021.

REMBOW is fitted with physical and chemical, metocean and video sensors, radars, depth sounders, hydrophones, etc. used to observe biodiversity (seabirds, fish, phytoplankton, sea mammals, etc.) at the surface and in the water column. Data processing algorithms analyze the information collected, then the data are archived, and the ecological status indicators can be consulted on an online platform.

Adapting the design - ideally, REMBOW buoys will be installed several months, or even years, upstream of a project to allow sufficient time to determine the environmental baseline and seasonal phenomena. These observations are required to optimally adapt the design of the wind power project: ensure that construction takes place outside for marine mammals’ breeding season, maintain a corridor for mammals and flyways for birds to travel through unhindered, adjust the number and size of turbines, etc.

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