New Zealand permafrost research in the Antarctic includes the following activities.
The Latitudinal Gradient Project (LGP) “is a framework within which interdisciplinary and international collaborations can be supported logistically towards the common goals of: i) understanding the complex ecosystems that exist along the Antarctic Victoria Land coast; and ii) determining the effects of environmental change on these ecosystems.” (www.lgp.aq/). Five sites along the Victoria Land coast, covering a latitudinal range from 728 to 838 S, are studied in detail in the fields of: limnology and oceanography; marine and terrestrial ecology; physiology and genetics; soil science and microbiology; meteorology and climate modelling; glaciology and geomorphology; sediment- and ice-core palaeoclimatology. The information gained from the different sites along the coast will increase our understanding of polar ecosystems and help create a predictive knowledge of the future effects of environmental change on these ecosystems.
The LGP’s success is dependent on the interdisciplinary aspects of the project and the interaction of researchers at each site, forming a complete picture of the ecosystems studied. The LGP began in the 2003/04 summer with a field camp established at Cape Hallet where researchers from New Zealand, U.S.A. and Italy worked with New Zealand and Italian logistic support. A group led by Jackie Aislabie, of Landcare Research, and Megan Balks from Earth Sciences at the University of Waikato investigated the soils and permafrost, in a much warmer, wetter environment than that experienced further south in the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica. Work undertaken included soil description and characterisation, installation of soil moisture and temperature monitoring equipment and installation of dipwells to monitor summer water tables perched on the permafrost. Work at Cape Hallet is planned to continue for the 2004/ 05 and 2005/06 summers then the focus of the LGP is planned to move south to the Darwin Glacier area.
In the 2004/05 summer Malcolm McLeod from Landcare Research, along with Megan Balks and Jim Bockheim, plans to commence field work on a soil mapping project in the Wright Valley. The ultimate goal is to produce interpretive maps of the vulnerability of soils and permafrost to human activities in the region that will contribute to decisions relating to environmental management in the area.
Jackie Aislabie’s research group, in collaboration with USDA, now have a network of seven soil-climate monitoring stations in the Ross Sea Region. Data is downloaded annually and contributed to the CALM project. The stations form a transect along the Antarctic coast (Minna Bluff, Scott Base, Marble Point, and Granite Harbour), with a further transect running inland from Marble Point to the Wright Valley and Mt. Fleming. Stations supported by Ron Sletten of the U.S.A. in Victoria and Beacon Valleys also contribute to the available data set. In the 2005/06 summer we hope to add temperature measurement to 20 m at the Marble Point and Bull Pass sites with the support of Mauro Guglielmin from Italy.
New Zealand has announced its interest in becoming a member of the IPA. The IPA Council plans to act on the request at its June meeting in Potsdam.
Megan Balks (email@example.com)