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The geochemistry of upland ponds, Taylor Valley, Antarctica

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 September 2011

W. Berry Lyons*
Byrd Polar Research Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210-1002, USA School of Earth Sciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210-1002, USA
Kathleen A. Welch
Byrd Polar Research Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210-1002, USA
Christopher B. Gardner
Byrd Polar Research Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210-1002, USA School of Earth Sciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210-1002, USA
Chris Jaros
INSTAAR, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
Daryl L. Moorhead
Department of Earth, Ecological and Environmental Sciences, University of Toledo, Toledo, OH 43606, USA
Jennifer L. Knoepfle
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60607, USA
Peter T. Doran
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60607, USA


The McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica are the largest ice-free region on the continent. These valleys contain numerous water bodies that receive seasonal melt from glaciers. For forty years, research emphasis has been placed on the larger water bodies, the permanent ice-covered lakes. We present results from the first study describing the geochemistry of ponds in the higher elevations of Taylor Valley. Unlike the lakes at lower elevations, the landscape on which these ponds lie is among the oldest in Taylor Valley. These upland ponds wax and wane in size depending on the local climatic conditions, and their ionic concentrations and isotopic composition vary annually depending on the amount of meltwater generated and their hydrologic connectivity. This study evaluates the impact of changes in summer climate on the chemistry of these ponds. Although pond chemistry reflects the initial meltwater chemistry, dissolution and chemical weathering within the stream channels, and possibly permafrost fluid input, the primary control is the dilution effect of glacier melt during warmer summers. These processes lead to differences in solute concentrations and ionic ratios between ponds, despite their nearby proximity. The change in size of these ponds over time has important consequences on their geochemical behaviour and potential to provide water and solutes to the subsurface.

Biological Sciences
Copyright © Antarctic Science Ltd 2011

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