Global census of modern planktonic Foraminifera from ocean waters: FORCIS database

FORCIS database unveiling global distribution and diversity of planktonic Foraminifera, providing crucial insights into their ecological dynamics. A groundbreaking resource advancing our understanding of these organisms and their responses to climate stress.
Global census of modern planktonic Foraminifera from ocean waters: FORCIS database

In the depths of the ocean, a remarkable tale unfolds. Meet the planktonic foraminifera, microscopic calcifiers, which hold the key to our planet's past. Within their delicate shells, akin to tiny time capsules, they harbour a wealth of geochemical secrets. With skilled hands and curious minds, scientists can use foraminifera to embark on an adventure of discovery. They can analyze the chemical signatures and elemental composition fossilized within foraminiferal shells, piecing together the story of our oceans throughout history. This remarkable puzzle can unveil the ebb and flow of our climate and the intricate dance of marine ecosystems in their response to environmental changes. However, these tiny architects are more than passive witnesses, they actively contribute to the global carbon cycle, storing carbon within and burying it away from the atmosphere. Through this delicate juggling act, they hold vital insight into and a key control of the workings of our planet.

Today, the challenges of anthropogenic ocean and climate change cast a shadow on their distribution and diversity. To unravel their past and future, and understand the impacts of these stressors, far-reaching information on their distribution is key.

To address this knowledge gap, the FORCIS (FOraminifera Response to Climatic Stressors) project and research group were initiated with funding from the French Foundation for Biodiversity Research (FRB-CESAB). This project set-out to compile and analyze data on planktonic Foraminifera diversity and distribution from the global ocean, spanning from 1910 to the present day ( Our ambitious undertaking involves collecting information from published and unpublished sources, from scientists around the globe, and creating a comprehensive database known as the FORCIS database.

As part of the FORCIS working group, a collaborative effort bringing together expert researchers from many countries, we have actively engaged in advancing our understanding of planktonic foraminifera and their responses to modern environmental stressors. Since 2019, we have organized biannual workshops at FRB-CESAB (Centre de Synthèse et d'Analyse sur la Biodiversité) in Montpellier, France. The commitment and hospitality of the FRB-CESAB team have undoubtedly contributed to the success of our workshops and the overall advancement of the FORCIS project. The facilities and support provided by the CESAB have created an ideal working environment, allowing us to focus on the tasks at hand.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we swiftly adapted to the situation and continued our work through online platforms. The virtual workshops allowed us to maintain our momentum and ensure the progress of the FORCIS project. Despite the physical distance, the participants exhibited unwavering enthusiasm and dedication. Through engaging discussions, we delved into the intricacies of the data, shared valuable insights, and collectively shaped the FORCIS database.

These workshops serve as dynamic hubs of collaboration and knowledge exchange, revealing valuable insights into the distribution patterns and ecological dynamics of planktonic foraminifera. By curating the collected data and harmonizing diverse datasets, we have created a unified and robust resource. Throughout, the working group have ensured the reliability and quality of the database, and now enable researchers worldwide to access the fruits of our labour, a comprehensive and diverse collection of information on foraminiferal species diversity and distribution in the global ocean.

FORCIS working group at CESAB, Montpellier, France

We have meticulously compiled and organized over 188,000 data points from a wide range of published and unpublished sources. This new collection includes approximately ~157,000 subsamples obtained through Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR), a sampling device towed in surveys starting in the 1990s, around ~22,000 samples from plankton net collections dating back to the 1910s, nearly 9,000 subsamples from sediment trap (giant funnels collecting marine particles) deployments since the 1970s, and ~400 samples obtained from plankton pumps (instrument designed to pump seawater through a mesh net) since 1985. This expansive FORCIS database, is a groundbreaking resource dedicated to understanding the diversity and distribution of planktonic Foraminifera in the global ocean.

Integrating data from these sampling methods and in previous unexplored historical data, the FORCIS database offers a pioneering insight into the distribution patterns of planktonic foraminifera across different spatial and temporal scales over the past century.

FORCIS data distribution

The newly published FORCIS database has been meticulously curated and structured into five ".csv" files, each containing data from the four distinct types of sampling devices, i.e., plankton tows, plankton pump, CPR (“.csv” file for each data from the Southern and from the Northern Hemispheres), and moored sediment traps. This careful categorization allows researchers and the public to easily access and analyze information based on their specific interests and research objectives. To ensure open access and data sharing, the FORCIS database has been uploaded to the Zenodo repository. Anyone can easily access and download the data from the following link:

Plankton net sampling on board the R/V Marion Dufresne II

As we continue to expand the FORCIS database, it opens up new avenues for collaboration and data sharing. We encourage scientists and researchers from around the world to contribute their own data, further enriching this invaluable resource. Together, we can advance our understanding of planktonic foraminifera and their responses to environmental stressors, ultimately working towards a more comprehensive and holistic comprehension of our ocean ecosystems.

Thanks to Thomas Chalk for the helpful inputs.

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