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Hidden Valley, Miers Valley, Garwood Valley, Beacon Valley, McKelvey Valley, Victoria Valley, St Johns Range
Principle Investigator:
S. Craig Cary
University of Waikato
Hamilton, New Zealand
This research focuses on describing and interpreting biocomplexity of terrestrial ecosystems in Victoria Land, and utilizes the findings to construct a GIS/biodiversity model, linking biodiversity, landscape, and environmental factors in a form easily understood and taken up by end users. It aligns with and has been contributing important comparative landscape scale data to other International Polar Year (IPY) initiatives such as Evolution and Biodiversity in Antarctica (EBA, IPY Project #137), Latitudinal Gradient Project (LGP), and the New Zealand Sciecne Strategy.
We intend to describe the biocomplexity, i.e., the organisms and their community structure and functional linkages, at selected sites in the Dry Valleys. At each location, we use modern molecular techniques to describe the biota, including visible lichens, mosses, and invertebrates, to invisible microbes. DNA fingerprinting techniques allow rapid assessments of biodiversity and relationship between sites. New genomic approaches that examine microbial communities as a whole (i.e., metagenomics) or even their entire functional aspects (i.e, metatranscriptomics) will provide a comprehensive picture of systematic and functional biodiversity, which will resolve drivers of biodiversity in the environment. Organic matter and nutrients levels are measured, and sources of organic matter (i.e., the subsidies) are determined by stable isotope ratios and molecular identity. The GIS/biodiversity model describes biota locations, identifies keystone species and factors controlling distributions, and will help us predict the effects of climate change and other impacts. Our research directly complements and maintains key collaborations with the US NSF-funded Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program in the Taylor Valley.
In the 2011/2012 season, our emphasis is on Dry Valley sites that allow us to extrapolate the reach of our model. In addition to deploying instruments that provide climatic and physical data on these locations, we intend to perform selective sampling of key sites identified using the model. These samples will help us validate the extrapolated model and assist in necessary adjustments.