Project Information
LTER: Ecosystem Response to Amplified Landscape Connectivity in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica
Short Title:
Start Date:
End Date:
Project Location(s)
McMurdo Dry Valleys
The McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, are a mosaic of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in a cold desert. The McMurdo Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) project has been observing these ecosystems since 1993 and this award will support key long-term measurements, manipulation experiments, synthesis, and modeling to test current theories on ecosystem structure and function. Data collection is focused on meteorology and physical and biological dimensions of soils, streams, lakes, glaciers, and permafrost. The long-term measurements show that biological communities have adapted to the seasonally cold, dark, and arid conditions that prevail for all but a short period in the austral summer. Physical (climate and geological) drivers impart a dynamic connectivity among portions of the Dry Valley landscape over seasonal to millennial time scales. For instance, lakes and soils have been connected through cycles of lake-level rise and fall over the past 20,000 years while streams connect glaciers to lakes over seasonal time scales. Overlaid upon this physical system are biotic communities that are structured by the environment and by the movement of individual organisms within and between the glaciers, streams, lakes, and soils. The new work to be conducted at the McMurdo LTER site will explore how the layers of connectivity in the McMurdo Dry Valleys influence ecosystem structure and function. This project will test the hypothesis that increased ecological connectivity following enhanced melt conditions within the McMurdo Dry Valleys ecosystem will amplify exchange of biota, energy, and matter, homogenizing ecosystem structure and functioning. This hypothesis will be tested with new and continuing experiments that examine: 1) how climate variation alters connectivity among landscape units, and 2) how biota are connected across a heterogeneous landscape using state-of-the-science tools and methods including automated sensor networks, analysis of seasonal satellite imagery, biogeochemical analyses, and next-generation sequencing. McMurdo LTER education programs and outreach activities will be continued, and expanded with new programs associated with the 200th anniversary of the first recorded sightings of Antarctica. These activities will advance societal understanding of how polar ecosystems respond to change. McMurdo LTER will continue its mission of training and mentoring students, postdocs, and early career scientists as the next generation of leaders in polar ecosystem science, and lead the development of international environmental stewardship protocols for human activities in the region.
Person Role
Gooseff, Michael N. Investigator and contact
Takacs-Vesbach, Cristina Co-Investigator
Morgan-Kiss, Rachael Co-Investigator
Adams, Byron Co-Investigator
Barrett, John Co-Investigator
Howkins, Adrian Co-Investigator
McKnight, Diane Co-Investigator
Priscu, John C. Co-Investigator
Doran, Peter Co-Investigator
Antarctic Integrated System Science Award # 1637708
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Repository Title (link) Status
McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER Data Repository McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER Data Repository exists
Environmental Data Initiative EDI Data Portal: McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER exists
  1. See
  2. Li, W., & Morgan-Kiss, R. M. (2019). Influence of Environmental Drivers and Potential Interactions on the Distribution of Microbial Communities From Three Permanently Stratified Antarctic Lakes. Frontiers in Microbiology, 10. (doi:10.3389/fmicb.2019.01067)
  3. Obryk, M. K., Doran, P. T., & Priscu, J. C. (2019). Prediction of Ice‐Free Conditions for a Perennially Ice‐Covered Antarctic Lake. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 124(2), 686–694. (doi:10.1029/2018jf004756)
  4. 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)
  5. Cook, G., Teufel, A., Kalra, I., Li, W., Wang, X., Priscu, J., & Morgan-Kiss, R. (2019). The Antarctic psychrophiles Chlamydomonas spp. UWO241 and ICE-MDV exhibit differential restructuring of photosystem I in response to iron. Photosynthesis Research, 141(2), 209–228. (doi:10.1007/s11120-019-00621-0)
  6. 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)
  7. 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)