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20/07/2021 News

BioLit: A Citizen Science Program to Take the Pulse of the Coastline

BioLit is a project being led by nonprofit Planète Mer to make all people keen observers of the biodiversity found along France’s coastlines, be it the 5,800 kilometers of the mainland or the 18,000 kilometers of its overseas departments. The aim is to transmit as much data as possible to scientists so they can better understand and safeguard these ecosystems. TotalEnergies’ French corporate foundation has signed a new agreement to support the program’s long-term development.

Coastlines are the meeting point between land and sea, hosting a rich diversity of plant and animal species. But these ecosystems at being threatened by intensive coastal development, pollution, waste and climate change. Planète Mer, a nonprofit organization founded in 2007, works to preserve coastal areas by systematically involving walkers, divers, fishermen and other local stakeholders. In 2010, it launched the BioLit program to promote coastal biodiversity.

BioLit calls on all people to do their part by observing changes in coastal habitats and species. The program has defined a set of simple steps so that everyone can participate in an eco-citizen-led monitoring and alert system, regardless of whether they are an expert or a novice, alone or accompanied by a member of the BioLit network, with their family or on a school excursion. Once the observations, data and photos are collected, they are recorded on the website and sent to the scientists so they can better understand coastal biodiversity, how it is changing and the impact of human activities on wildlife. To date, 120,000 data points have been collected and 862 species identified. 

The scientific aspects of the program are being overseen by the Dinard Natural History Museum’s Marine Biology Station, with the support of a scientific committee, and in partnership with environmental and sustainable development education organizations, regional authorities, and managers of protected spaces and natural resources.

At the end of June, Planète Mer launched an annual observation campaign in France called “Ma plage, espace de biodiversité” (My Beach, A Place for Biodiversity). By targeting the general public, the nonprofit aims to improve knowledge of coastlines, raise awareness of the importance of protecting them, and provide information to guide public policy.1 

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Long-Term Objective: Make BioLit a Reflex Community-Wide 

From 2011 to 2018, TotalEnergies’ French corporate foundation supported the development and rollout of the program, particularly through the implementation of BioLit Junior, which is targeted at younger audiences. As part of its commitment to Climate, Coastal Areas and Oceans, the foundation has just signed a new agreement with Planète Mer for 2021-2022. The main objective is to ensure the program’s long-term development. As coastal areas are constantly changing, monitoring mechanisms must be implemented over the long term in as many locations as possible. 

In particular, the support from TotalEnergies Foundation will serve to improve tools, expand and engage the community of participants, and consolidate the scientific partnerships to more effectively process the data and promote the results. BioLit initiatives have already been proposed to TotalEnergies employees as part of the Action! volunteering program.

Lastly, the project aims to demonstrate the added value of citizen science in monitoring species. Ultimately, it will contribute to the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), which advocates an ecosystem-based approach to combating threats to marine environments. This step change will help achieve maximum impact.