The Soil Environment of the Mcmurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica

  1. John C. Priscu
  1. Iain B. Campbell1,
  2. Graeme G. C. Claridge1,
  3. David I. Campbell2 and
  4. Megan R. Balks2

Published Online: 16 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/AR072p0297

Ecosystem Dynamics in a Polar Desert: the Mcmurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica

Ecosystem Dynamics in a Polar Desert: the Mcmurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica

How to Cite

Campbell, I. B., Claridge, G. G. C., Campbell, D. I. and Balks, M. R. (1998) The Soil Environment of the Mcmurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, in Ecosystem Dynamics in a Polar Desert: the Mcmurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica (ed J. C. Priscu), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/AR072p0297

Author Information

  1. 1

    Land and Soil Consultancy Services, Nelson, New Zealand

  2. 2

    Earth Sciences, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 16 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 28 JAN 1998

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875908991

Online ISBN: 9781118668313

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Keywords:

  • Desert ecology—Antarctica—McMurdo Dry Valleys

Summary

The soils in the McMurdo Dry Valley region are a key component of the polar desert ecosystem. Formed in an environment of low precipitation, severe cold and minimal biological activity, the soils have distinctive cold desert features in which the principal processes of oxidation and salinization are slowly superimposed on the regolith materials. Although climatic conditions are extreme, there is considerable variation in the soil environment. At the macro-scale five distinct soil regions are identified, broadly corresponding with temperature differences across the dry valley region. Soil moisture and chemical characteristics are important for characterizing the soils. At the microscale, appreciable variations occur over short distances as a result of parent material and site differences which affect the radiational and thermal properties of the soils. Surface albedo and air temperature are key factors influencing the soil thermal regime and moisture availability. Soil salinity is important in determining the occurrence of ice cement and, to an extent, the variation in soil temperature extremes. Because of the great age and stability of the soils and the extremely slow rate at which soil processes operate, the soils of the McMurdo Dry Valleys are very susceptible to damage from human activities.