Tuesday, January 1, 2008

How to Find Antarctic Soil

Most people think of Antarctica as being cold, snowy, and ice-covered. While that is true for some parts of Antarctica (like, the South Pole, for example), that is not true everywhere in Antarctica. Some areas (like the Dry Valleys) are not covered in ice. Antarctica is a continent, which means it's made out of land, not just ice. The areas that are covered in ice still have soil underneath all of that ice. In most places the ice is incredibly thick, and you'd have to drill down for miles to find the soil. But, there's still soil under there! The areas that do not have ice allow you to see the soil directly, without drilling through any ice. That's why our group works in the Dry Valleys. We're interested in soil, and the Dry Valleys allow us to look at that soil without any ice cover.The Dry Valleys don't have ice because they are in a desert that is very dry. There is not enough snow fall each year to cover the ground completely. No glaciers remain to cover the ground.

The soils of Antarctica are not like those that you're used to seeing. Antarctic soils are very rocky and loose. There's no tree or plant roots to hold the soil together, so it is soft and loose to walk on. It's like walking on the beach, where the sand smooshes around your foot. Except here, there's a lot of rocks, pebbles, and boulders, not just sand. The rocks come from all sorts of different origins. Some of them are from volcanoes. Some of them are from the bedrock.

Mike and I came back to the field today. We are now at Lake Bonney, which is a different lake basin in Taylor Valley. While we're here, we'll hike some more elevation transects for soil samples, plus measure carbon dioxide respiration from several different plots. Unfortunately, the internet at this camp is not very good, and I am not able to upload many pictures. I will upload more when I can!

21 comments:

  1. Thanks for the information!I'm using it for a report I'm doing on Antarctica.

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  2. Thanks for the soil i need this for a weathering report.

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  3. is there any crop production in antarctica

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  4. There's no crop production in a traditional sense, no. The soil there is not a very good "nutritious" environment for plants. In the dry valleys where we work, there aren't even any vascular plants- only mosses. There are also no farmers in Antarctica. No country is allowed to have a colony of people officially living in Antarctica, which means no farmers. But, there is a greenhouse at McMurdo station that uses hydroponics to grow some salad greens and other small vegetable plants. :)

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  5. What is the soil order in Antarctica?

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  6. Soils in the dry valleys are Gelisols, which is an order of "permafrost-affected" soils. There are a few different subgroups within the Gelisols represented here, including Turbels, Orthels, and Histels.

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  7. thanks for this information. im using it for a repot =)

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  8. Thanks for the infomation, a third grader (Caleb) and I (the art teacher) are researching soils of the earth for a book we are making.

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  9. Thanks for the information on soil! I am doing a biome project on Antarctica. =)

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  10. Thank you for the information, doing a report on gellisols for pedology and was curious about antarctic soils.

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  11. Thank you! I needed some info on Antarctic soil and this was a big help.

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  12. This was sooo much help. Thank-you!!!!
    It was really informative. I have an assignment on Antarctica.

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  13. Ačiū jūsų informacija man tikrai labai pagelbėjo darai skaidres apie antarktį. :)

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  14. Hello Dr. Becky,
    I am also working on Antarctic Environment, Please provide some info on soil quality of Antarctica.
    Thanx.
    gurupawanbharti@gmail.com

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  15. Hellow! I have one question - is it right to affirm that the friable layer in Dry Valleys - is "soil" (- a natural body consisting of layers (soil horizons) that are primarily composed of minerals which differ from their parent materials in their texture, structure, consistency, color, chemical, biological and other characteristics as told) because in it's true definition soil is the body made from lifeless rock and living organisms with high content of organic matter. Just differentiated rock layers are called "residual soil" formed primery by physicochemical influences. How can You prove that this subsurface layer is just "soil"?
    I saw the wet sand under the mosses in Larsemann Hills wich pedologists called "soils" but for me it is just wet sand with some organic matter...
    For me in continental Antarctic there is no soils. Maybe on it's Nord Islands.
    Thank You for the notice,
    Katya

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  16. Hi Katya,

    Yes, the McMurdo Dry Valleys are considered to have soil. It is published in the scientific literature as such (for example, you may refer papers describing the soils classifications, such as Bockheim & McLeod (2008) Geoderma 144: 43–49). On the philosophical side, there are several definitions of "soil" that each incorporate varying degrees of biological processing, and people can debate the symantics of when a pedon goes from "weathered parent material" to "soil" for ages. It depends on how you subjectively determine when it's "different looking" or when organic matter is "high enough" or how many of the classified horizons are enough. In the Dry Valleys, there is indeed weathered parent material that has been biologically processed. It is much less developed than in other places, of course, given the conditions and time since exposure. But, if your chosen definition of soil is that it needs to have high organic matter content, all of the visible horizons in the textbook, and be a different color than the original rock, then yes, the world has a lot fewer soils than the classification guides would suggest. It's certainly not a new debate. But, whatever we call it, the Dry Valleys' weathered-parent-material has biology and biogeochemical cycling, and therefore I find it very interesting to study!

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  17. thank u sooooooo much for all the juicy facts about Antarctica they were very useful,cuz I am doing a science project on Antarctica and I needed facts quick and u totally helped me get an a+ on my project so thank u soooooooo much once again and this page made it fun doing my report :D

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  18. Hi, is it not possible to combine antarctic soil with fertilizers and good soil from other continent, to create good soil for growing plants?
    Thank you

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  19. In theory, yes, it's possible. If you mix it with other soil that contains more organic matter and nutrients, you're creating a mix that has what is necessary for growing a lot of plants. (This is why many people buy topsoil for their lawn and gardens.) However, we can't do this in real life. The Antarctic is very environmentally regulated, and we can't mix the soil!

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  20. hi peopl who has a blogs 4 soils thats just funny

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