Effects of extreme cold and aridity on soils and habitability: McMurdo Dry Valleys as an analogue for the Mars Phoenix landing site

L. K. Tamppari, R. M. Anderson, P. D. Archer, S. Douglas, S. P. Kounaves, C. P. McKay, D. W. Ming, Q. Moore, J. E. Quinn, Peter Smith, S. Stroble, A. P. Zent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The McMurdo Dry Valleys are among the driest, coldest environments on Earth and are excellent analogues for the Martian northern plains. In preparation for the 2008 Phoenix Mars mission, we conducted an interdisciplinary investigation comparing the biological, mineralogical, chemical, and physical properties of wetter lower Taylor Valley (TV) soils to colder, drier University Valley (UV) soils. Our analyses were performed for each horizon from the surface to the ice table. In TV, clay-sized particle distribution and less abundant soluble salts both suggested vertical and possible horizontal transport by water, and microbial biomass was higher. Alteration of mica to short-order phyllosilicates suggested aqueous weathering. In UV, salts, clay-sized materials, and biomass were more abundant near the surface, suggesting minimal downward translocation by water. The presence of microorganisms in each horizon was established for the first time in an ultraxerous zone. Higher biomass numbers were seen near the surface and ice table, perhaps representing locally more clement environments. Currently, water activity is too low to support metabolism at the Phoenix site, but obliquity changes may produce higher temperatures and sufficient water activity to permit microbial growth, if the populations could survive long dormancy periods (∼106 years).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-228
Number of pages18
JournalAntarctic Science
Volume24
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2012

Fingerprint

dry environmental conditions
aridity
Mars
valleys
valley
soil
water activity
biomass
ice
clay
salt
salts
water
mica
obliquity
phyllosilicate
dormancy
weathering
translocation
microbial biomass

Keywords

  • dry permafrost
  • habitability
  • Taylor Valley
  • University Valley

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Oceanography
  • Geology

Cite this

Tamppari, L. K., Anderson, R. M., Archer, P. D., Douglas, S., Kounaves, S. P., McKay, C. P., ... Zent, A. P. (2012). Effects of extreme cold and aridity on soils and habitability: McMurdo Dry Valleys as an analogue for the Mars Phoenix landing site. Antarctic Science, 24(3), 211-228. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954102011000800

Effects of extreme cold and aridity on soils and habitability : McMurdo Dry Valleys as an analogue for the Mars Phoenix landing site. / Tamppari, L. K.; Anderson, R. M.; Archer, P. D.; Douglas, S.; Kounaves, S. P.; McKay, C. P.; Ming, D. W.; Moore, Q.; Quinn, J. E.; Smith, Peter; Stroble, S.; Zent, A. P.

In: Antarctic Science, Vol. 24, No. 3, 06.2012, p. 211-228.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Tamppari, LK, Anderson, RM, Archer, PD, Douglas, S, Kounaves, SP, McKay, CP, Ming, DW, Moore, Q, Quinn, JE, Smith, P, Stroble, S & Zent, AP 2012, 'Effects of extreme cold and aridity on soils and habitability: McMurdo Dry Valleys as an analogue for the Mars Phoenix landing site', Antarctic Science, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 211-228. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954102011000800
Tamppari, L. K. ; Anderson, R. M. ; Archer, P. D. ; Douglas, S. ; Kounaves, S. P. ; McKay, C. P. ; Ming, D. W. ; Moore, Q. ; Quinn, J. E. ; Smith, Peter ; Stroble, S. ; Zent, A. P. / Effects of extreme cold and aridity on soils and habitability : McMurdo Dry Valleys as an analogue for the Mars Phoenix landing site. In: Antarctic Science. 2012 ; Vol. 24, No. 3. pp. 211-228.
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