Project Information
Increased Connectivity in a Polar Desert Resulting from Climate Warming: McMurdo Dry Valley LTER Program
Start Date:
End Date:
The McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV) is a polar desert on the coast of East Antarctica, a region that has not yet experienced climate warming. The McMurdo Dry Valleys Long Term Ecological Research (MCMLTER) project has documented the ecological responses of the glacier, soil, stream and lake ecosystems in the MDV during a cooling trend (from 1986 to 2000) which was associated with the depletion of atmospheric ozone. In the past decade, warming events with strong katabatic winds occurred during two summers and the resulting high streamflows and sediment deposition changed the dry valley landscape, possibly presaging conditions that will occur when the ozone hole recovers. In anticipation of future warming in Antarctica, the overarching hypothesis of the proposed project is: Climate warming in the McMurdo Dry Valley ecosystem will amplify connectivity among landscape units leading to enhanced coupling of nutrient cycles across landscapes, and increased biodiversity and productivity within the ecosystem. Warming in the MDV is hypothesized to act as a slowly developing, long-term press of warmer summers, upon which transient pulse events of high summer flows and strong katabatic winds will be overprinted. Four specific hypotheses address the ways in which pulses of water and wind will influence contemporary and future ecosystem structure, function and connectivity. Because windborne transport of biota is a key aspect of enhanced connectivity from katabatic winds, new monitoring will include high-resolution measurements of aeolian particle flux. Importantly, integrative genomics will be employed to understand the responses of specific organisms to the increased connectivity. The project will also include a novel social science component that will use environmental history to examine interactions between human activity, scientific research, and environmental change in the MDV over the past 100 years. To disseminate this research broadly, MCM scientists will participate in a wide array of outreach efforts ranging from presentations in K-12 classrooms to bringing undergraduates and teachers to the MDV to gain research experience. Planned outreach programs will build upon activities conducted during the International Polar Year (2007-2008), which include development of an interactive DVD for high school students and teachers and publication of a children's book in the LTER Schoolyard Book Series. A teacher's edition of the book with a CD containing lesson plans will be distributed. The project will develop programs for groups traditionally underrepresented in science arenas by publishing some outreach materials in Spanish.
Person Role
McKnight, Diane Investigator
Gooseff, Michael N. Investigator
Antarctic Instrumentation and Support Award # 1115245
Antarctic Integrated System Science Award # 1115245
Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Award # 1115245
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Repository Title (link) Status
LTER McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER data at EDI Data Portal exist
  1. Andriuzzi, W. S., Stanish, L. F., Simmons, B. L., Jaros, C., Adams, B. J., Wall, D. H., & McKnight, D. M. (2018). Spatial and temporal patterns of microbial mats and associated invertebrates along an Antarctic stream. Polar Biology, 41(10), 1911–1921. (doi:10.1007/s00300-018-2331-4)
  2. Knox, M. A., Wall, D. H., Virginia, R. A., Vandegehuchte, M. L., Gil, I. S., & Adams, B. J. (2015). Impact of diurnal freeze–thaw cycles on the soil nematode Scottnema lindsayae in Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Polar Biology, 39(4), 583–592. (doi:10.1007/s00300-015-1809-6)
  3. Gooseff, M. N., Van Horn, D., Sudman, Z., McKnight, D. M., Welch, K. A., & Lyons, W. B. (2015). Biogeochemical and suspended sediment responses to permafrost degradation in stream banks in Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Biogeosciences Discussions, 12(17), 14773–14796. (doi:10.5194/bgd-12-14773-2015)
  4. Sakaeva, A., Sokol, E. R., Kohler, T. J., Stanish, L. F., Spaulding, S. A., Howkins, A., … McKnight, D. M. (2016). Evidence for dispersal and habitat controls on pond diatom communities from the McMurdo Sound Region of Antarctica. Polar Biology, 39(12), 2441–2456. (doi:10.1007/s00300-016-1901-6)
  5. Wlostowski, A. N., Gooseff, M. N., McKnight, D. M., Jaros, C., & Lyons, W. B. (2016). Patterns of hydrologic connectivity in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica: a synthesis of 20 years of hydrologic data. Hydrological Processes, 30(17), 2958–2975. (doi:10.1002/hyp.10818)
  6. Wlostowski, A. N., Gooseff, M. N., McKnight, D. M., & Lyons, W. B. (2018). Transit Times and Rapid Chemical Equilibrium Explain Chemostasis in Glacial Meltwater Streams in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Geophysical Research Letters, 45(24), 13,322–13,331. (doi:10.1029/2018gl080369)
  7. Diaz, M. A., Adams, B. J., Welch, K. A., Welch, S. A., Opiyo, S. O., Khan, A. L., … Lyons, W. B. (2018). Aeolian Material Transport and Its Role in Landscape Connectivity in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 123(12), 3323–3337. (doi:10.1029/2017jf004589)
  8. Geyer, K. M., Takacs-Vesbach, C. D., Gooseff, M. N., & Barrett, J. E. (2017). Primary productivity as a control over soil microbial diversity along environmental gradients in a polar desert ecosystem. PeerJ, 5, e3377. (doi:10.7717/peerj.3377)
  9. Hawes, I., Jungblut, A. D., Obryk, M. K., & Doran, P. T. (2016). Growth dynamics of a laminated microbial mat in response to variable irradiance in an Antarctic lake. Freshwater Biology, 61(4), 396–410. (doi:10.1111/fwb.12715)
  10. Darling, J. P., Garland, D. D., Stanish, L. F., Esposito, R. M. M., Sokol, E. R., & McKnight, D. M. (2017). Thermal autecology describes the occurrence patterns of four benthic diatoms in McMurdo Dry Valley streams. Polar Biology, 40(12), 2381–2396. (doi:10.1007/s00300-017-2151-y)
  11. Knox, M. A., Andriuzzi, W. S., Buelow, H. N., Takacs-Vesbach, C., Adams, B. J., & Wall, D. H. (2017). Decoupled responses of soil bacteria and their invertebrate consumer to warming, but not freeze-thaw cycles, in the Antarctic Dry Valleys. Ecology Letters, 20(10), 1242–1249. (doi:10.1111/ele.12819)
  12. Olund, S., Lyons, W. B., Welch, S. A., & Welch, K. A. (2018). Fe and Nutrients in Coastal Antarctic Streams: Implications for Primary Production in the Ross Sea. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 123(12), 3507–3522. (doi:10.1029/2017jg004352)
  13. Rivera-Hernandez, F., Sumner, D. Y., Mackey, T. J., Hawes, I., & Andersen, D. T. (2018). In a PICL: The sedimentary deposits and facies of perennially ice-covered lakes. Sedimentology, 66(3), 917–939. (doi:10.1111/sed.12522)
  14. Shaw, E. A., Adams, B. J., Barrett, J. E., Lyons, W. B., Virginia, R. A., & Wall, D. H. (2018). Stable C and N isotope ratios reveal soil food web structure and identify the nematode Eudorylaimus antarcticus as an omnivore–predator in Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Polar Biology, 41(5), 1013–1018. (doi:10.1007/s00300-017-2243-8)
  15. Trout‐Haney, J. V., Heindel, R. C., & Virginia, R. A. (2020). Picocyanobacterial cells in near‐surface air above terrestrial and freshwater substrates in Greenland and Antarctica. Environmental Microbiology Reports. (doi:10.1111/1758-2229.12832)
  16. Gooseff, M. N., Wlostowski, A., McKnight, D. M., & Jaros, C. (2017). Hydrologic connectivity and implications for ecosystem processes - Lessons from naked watersheds. Geomorphology, 277, 63–71. (doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2016.04.024)
  17. Wlostowski, A. N., Schulte, N. O., Adams, B. J., Ball, B. A., Esposito, R. M. M., Gooseff, M. N., … McKnight, D. M. (2019). The Hydroecology of an Ephemeral Wetland in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 124(12), 3814–3830. (doi:10.1029/2019jg005153)
  18. Bergstrom, A., Gooseff, M. N., Myers, M., Doran, P. T., & Cross, J. M. (2020). The seasonal evolution of albedo across glaciers and the surrounding landscape of Taylor Valley, Antarctica. The Cryosphere, 14(3), 769–788. (doi:10.5194/tc-14-769-2020)
  19. Bergstrom, A., Gooseff, M., Myers, M., & Doran, P. T. (2019). The seasonal evolution of albedo across glaciers and the surrounding landscape of the Taylor Valley, Antarctica. (doi:10.5194/tc-2019-146)
  20. Buelow, H. N., Winter, A. S., Van Horn, D. J., Barrett, J. E., Gooseff, M. N., Schwartz, E., & Takacs-Vesbach, C. D. (2016). Microbial Community Responses to Increased Water and Organic Matter in the Arid Soils of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Frontiers in Microbiology, 7. (doi:10.3389/fmicb.2016.01040)