Original Paper

Polar Biology

, 31:1453

First online:

Soil properties of an Antarctic inland site: implications for ecosystem development

  • Andreas EngelenAffiliated withInstitute of Botany, Heinrich-Heine-Universität
  • , Peter ConveyAffiliated withBritish Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council
  • , Dominic A. HodgsonAffiliated withBritish Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council
  • , M. Roger WorlandAffiliated withBritish Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council
  • , Sieglinde OttAffiliated withInstitute of Botany, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Email author 

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Inland Antarctic nunataks typically have simple physically weathered soils and limited ecosystem complexity. In this paper we present quantitative measurements of soil physical and chemical properties at one Antarctic nunatak. We measured pH, grain size, field capacity, soil organic carbon, phosphate, nitrate, ammonium and the cations magnesium, calcium and potassium along two transects. The data obtained indicated that very low levels of nutrients were present/available to biota, and that liquid water was absent, at least from the surface depths of soil, except during periods of active snow melt. Consequently, biological activity is severely limited. We conclude that, due to the climatic and microclimatic conditions at this location, the development of biological communities and soils is maintained in an extremely simple but still apparently stable ‘quasi climax’ state. Increased soil development and biological complexity can be expected if the contemporary rapid regional warming in the Antarctic Peninsula region continues.


Nunatak Polygon soil Soil parameters Nutrients Ecosystem