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Profile of soil investigation site
at Cape Hallett

Megan Balks
Antarctica New Zealand
Pictorial Collection:K123:03/04

Environmental Protection of Ice-Free Regions of Antarctica

This programme supports environmental protection of ice-free areas through the development of environmental domains to provide a robust spatial framework for environmental management and research in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica.  This framework builds on the Ross Sea region soils database, and is underpinned by increasing knowledge and understanding of soils, including soil distribution, climate and biodiversity, and the impacts of human activities.

Contact Dr Jackie Aislabie, Landcare Research, Hamilton, New Zealand
On-line Ross Sea Region GIS containing Soils, Topographic data and 125m satellite imagery for the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica.
Antarctic Permafrost and Soils homepage
2003-2005 Metadata: Cape Hallett soil and groundwater description, characterisation and sampling
2007-2008 Metadata: Lake Wellman (Darwin Glacier region) soil profile descriptions

Soil biodiversity and response to climate change: a regional comparison of Cape Hallett and Taylor Valley

This programme addressed how soil food webs and ecosystem processes are affected by climate, legacy and contemporary soil processes. Results and insights from the McMurdo LTER study will be used to determine whether changes in biodiversity along the range of soil habitats and landscape gradients in Taylor Valley occur similarly across gradients in a richer, more complex habitat at Cape Hallett.

Contact: Prof. Berry Lyons, Byrd Polar Research Centre, Ohio State University, USA
LTER Cape Hallett soils and microbes webpage
Diana Wall's Soil Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning webpage

Antarctic Aquatic Ecosystems (Inland)

This programme will determine how climate-related environmental processes (temperature, wind, irradiance) influence the physical and chemical characteristics of aquatic habitats, and how these characteristics in turn affect the diversity and productivity of biological communities.   We will develop climate-driven models that describe the physical and chemical processes within aquatic ecosystems.  We will determine the structure, diversity and dynamics of the biological communities within these systems, and develop a mechanistic understanding of the linkages between biology, chemistry and physics.  This includes linking simple models describing how key biological processes (photosynthesis, respiration, nutrient transformations) within the dominant microbial communities are affected by specific physical and chemical factors.

Contact: Ian Hawes, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.
2003-2005 Metadata - Analyses of water and microbial mat samples collected from two ponds at Luther Peak, near Cape Hallett
2005-2006 Metadata - Biological, physical and chemical parameters in water and microbial mat samples from ponds in the Cape Hallett vicinity and cryoconite holes on the Tucker and Bornmann glaciers
2007-2008 Metadata - Biological and chemical characteristics in water samples from ponds and Lake Wilson in the Darwin Glacier area

Bilicaria Aprina Lichen
in the Taylor Valley

Allan Green
Antarctica New Zealand
Pictorial Collection:K024:02/03

Evolution and Dispersal of Algae Along a Latitudinal Gradient

This programme aimed to assess the genetic relationships of non-marine algal populations along a latitudinal gradient from the Ross Sea sector, a subantarctic island, and alpine habitats in New Zealand. Knowledge of the diversity, origin and evolution of non-marine algae in Antarctica is lacking.  Although it is widely assumed that cosmopolitan species have dispersed great distances to Antarctica by aeolian means, this has never been conclusively demonstrated.  Gene sequencing and DNA fingerprinting will be combined with traditional methods to assess algal relationships along the gradient – the “genetic isolation” of populations – and show the extent of recruitment and dispersal between them.  Because latitudinal and altitudinal variation is viewed as a surrogate for climate change, results may also show how Antarctic algal communities will be selected in response to climate change in the future, and assist interpretation of results by other scientists in the LGP.

Contact: Dr Phil Novis, Landcare Research, Lincoln, New Zealand
2003-2004 Metadata: Evolution and dispersal of algae along a latitudinal gradient

Biodiversity and Performance of Lichens and Mosses

The terrestrial vegetation of Cape Hallett, the Darwin Glacier region and parts of the Beardmore Glacier regions was mapped and described and all lichens and mosses identified.  The insects and mites present at each main group of terrestrial vegetation were sampled.  An analysis will be made of the relationship between type of plant and invertebrate taxa, at present this type of data do not exist.

Contact: Prof. Allan Green, School of Biological Sciences, University of Waikato, New Zealand
2002-2003 Metadata: Biodiversity survey at Mt Kyffin near the Beardmore Glacier
2003-2004 Metadata: The use of GIS mapping techniques to assess changes in vegetation at Cape Hallett
2004-2006 Metadata: Plant biodiversity survey of the Cape Hallett region
2004-2006 Metadata: Examination of the photosynthetic behaviour of mosses and lichens throughout the summer season at Cape Hallett
2006-2008 Metadata: Population genetics of the lichen species Umbilicaria aprina, Umbilicaria decussata and Buellia frigida along a latitudinal gradient in the Ross Sea region
Poster: Diversity of crustose lichens in continental Antarctica

Terrestrial Antarctic Biocomplexity Survey (nzTABS)
The nzTABS mission focuses on examining the biocomplexity of terrestrial ecosystems living in the extreme environments of the Ross Dependency, Antarctica, and building a biocomplexity model linking biodiversity, landscape and environmental factors is an easily understood form. Their mission question is: What biological or environmental factors drive terrestrial biocomplexity at any chosen location in the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica? Answering this question will enable the team to determine what limits biocomplexity in different areas and allow them to predict the effects of natural and man-made impacts on these unique and fragile communities. This will help improve their ability to manage and protect the terrestrial ecosystems at the bottom of the world.

Contact: Prof Craig Cary, School of Biological Sciences, University of Waikato, New Zealand
2008-2009 Metadata
nzTABS Website

Biology of Antarctic Springtails

In an era of climate change, the distribution of organisms and how this may change is of global importance. In particular, limits the geographic range of species is poorly understood.  In Antarctica, the limits to speciesí geographic ranges are determined by strong temperature and moisture gradients in the physical environment. This project used the three species of springtails (Insecta: Collembola) that live in the terrestrial habitat of Cape Hallett in North Victoria Land to address key questions about global animal distribution. They mapped the distribution of the three species of springtails at Cape Hallett, and related this to moisture and temperature variables. They also gathered information on each speciesí responses to cold and drought to understand the way their biology limits their distribution. They then integrated this ecological and physiological information with genetic data to test specific hypotheses about why there is an edge to a speciesí range.

Contact: Brent Sinclair, University of Western Ontario, Canada.
Preliminary maps of arthropod distribution at Cape Hallett

2002-2003 (1) Metadata   2002-2003 (2) Metadata  2002-2003 (3) Metadata

Vegetation Communities for the Monitoring of Environmental Conditions and Climate Change Effects Along a Transect through Continental Antarctica

Twenty four sites located within five degrees of latitude along the Victoria Land coast have been studied to detect and describe the widest variety of ecological conditions and their associated vegetation communities. Selected communities were analysed with the phytosociological survey to describe their floristic compostition, structure, distribution patterns and ecological requirements. Twenty permanent plots were installed at nine sites for long term monitoring. These data will provide the basis  for monitoring the long term effects of climate change or of other significant environmental factors.

Contact: Nicoletta Cannone, Dipartimento di Scienze Ambientali, Universita Milano Bicocca, Italy

Evaluation of deterioration of historic huts & biodiversity of terrestrial microorganisms

The extreme polar environment has protected many of the wooden huts and artefacts of the Heroic Period of exploration from rapid decay but they are not free from deterioration. This programme has three objectives; first, to identify the cause of biological and non-biological deterioration present in the Historic Huts and artefacts of the Ross Dependency; second, to investigate the biodiversity of the biological organisms in the Historic Hut areas, especially fungi and bacteria; and third, to test conservationally acceptable materials for their long-term preservation.

Contact: Prof. Roberta Farrell, School of Biological Sciences, Waikato University

Natural spatial subsidies in continental Antarctic soils

Antarctic dry valleys, like hot deserts, show clear patterns of movement of soil and organic matter around their landscapes, via the agency of both water flows and wind dispersal.  The associated flows of key ecological resources including carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus take the form of source-sink relationships between landscape patches, from highly productive sources to less productive sinks.  Maintenance of biodiversity in dry valleys is dependent upon these fluxes.  Our model of resource redistribution indicates that landscape function and biodiversity may be affected by broad characteristics of valleys, including valley size and latitude as it affects energy budget, precipitation and temperature.  We are testing these hypotheses by comparison of valleys along the latitudinal gradient in Victoria Land.

Dry Valleys Soils project
2004-2005 Metadata: Biochemical cycling and soil community composition