Geothermal Workshop 24 August, 2014

  • Download all files relevant to the Geothermal Workshop
  • Developing Protection for a Geothermal Area; Volcanic Ice Caves at Mount Erebus, Ross Island
  • National Science Foundation: Mandatory Interim Code of Conduct for Mt Erebus Ice Caves 2012-2013
  • Update on Developing Protection for a Geothermal Area: Volcanic Ice Caves at Mount Erebus, Ross Island
  • Human Footprint in Antarctica and the long-term conservation of terrestrial microbial habitats
  • Erebus Ice Caves protocols by Kyle Staudigle and co
  • Management Plan for Antarctic Specially Protected Area No. 175

    High altitude geothermal sites of the Ross Sea Region (including parts of the summits of Mount Erebus, Ross Island and Mount Melbourne and Mount Rittmann, northern Victoria Land)

  • Non-indigenous microorganisms in the Antarctic: assessing the risks

    Cowan et al, 2011

    The Antarctic continent is frequently cited as the last pristine continent on Earth. However, this view is mis- leading for several reasons. First, there has been a rapid increase in visitors to Antarctica, with large increases at research bases and their environs and to sites of major tourist interest (e.g. historical sites and concentrations of megafauna). Second, although substantial efforts are made to avoid physical disturbance and contami- nation by chemical, human and other wastes at these sites, little has been done to prevent the introduction of non-indigenous microorganisms. Here, we analyse the extent and significance of anthropogenic introduction of microbial ‘contaminants’ to the Antarctic continent. We conclude that such processes are unlikely to have any immediate gross impact on microbiological com- munity structure or function, but that increased efforts are required to protect the unique ecosystems of Antarctica from microbial and genetic contamination and homogenisation. 

  • A Spaceborne inventory of volcanic activity in Antarctica and southern oceans, 2000-10

    Patrick and Smellie, 2013

    Of the more than twenty historically active volcanoes in Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic region only two, to our knowledge, host any ground-based monitoring instruments. Moreover, because of their remoteness, most of the volcanoes are seldom visited, thus relegating the monitoring of volcanism in this region almost entirely to satellites. In this study, high temporal resolution satellite data from the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology’s MODVOLC system using MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) are complemented with high spatial resolution data (ASTER, or Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer, and similar sensors) to document volcanic activity throughout the region during the period 2000–10. Five volcanoes were observed in eruption (Mount Erebus, Mount Belinda, Mount Michael, Heard Island and McDonald Island), which were predominantly low-level and effusive in nature. Mount Belinda produced tephra, building a cinder cone in addition to an extensive lava field. Five volcanoes exhibited detectable thermal, and presumed fumarolic, activity (Deception, Zavodovski, Candlemas, Bristol, and Bellingshausen islands). A minor eruption reported at Marion Island was not detected in our survey due to its small size. This study also discovered a new active vent on Mount Michael, tracked dramatic vent enlargement on Heard Island, and provides an improved picture of the morphology of some of the volcanoes. 

  • Geothermal activity helps life survive glacial cycles

    Fraser et al, 2013

    Climate change has played a critical role in the evolution and structure of Earth’s biodiversity. Geothermal activity, which can maintain ice-free terrain in glaciated regions, provides a tantalizing solution to the question of how diverse life can survive glaciations. No comprehensive assessment of this “geothermal glacial refugia” hypothesis has yet been undertaken, but Antarctica provides a unique setting for doing so. The continent has experienced re- peated glaciations that most models indicate blanketed the conti- nent in ice, yet many Antarctic species appear to have evolved in almost total isolation for millions of years, and hence must have persisted in situ throughout. How could terrestrial species have survived extreme glaciation events on the continent? Under a hy- pothesis of geothermal glacial refugia and subsequent recoloniza- tion of nongeothermal regions, we would expect to find greater contemporary diversity close to geothermal sites than in nongeo- thermal regions, and significant nestedness by distance of this diversity. We used spatial modeling approaches and the most com- prehensive, validated terrestrial biodiversity dataset yet created for Antarctica to assess spatial patterns of diversity on the conti- nent. Models clearly support our hypothesis, indicating that geo- thermally active regions have played a key role in structuring biodiversity patterns in Antarctica. These results provide critical insights into the evolutionary importance of geothermal refugia and the history of Antarctic species. 

  • Evidence of global-scale aeolian dispersal and endemism in isolated geothermal microbial communities of Antarctica

    Herbold et al, 2013

    New evidence in aerobiology challenges the assumption that geographical isolation is an effective barrier to microbial transport. However, given the uncertainty with which aerobiological organisms are recruited into existing communities, the ultimate impact of microbial dispersal is difficult to assess. Here we use molecular genetic approaches to examine microbial communities inhabiting fumarolic soils on Mount Erebus, the southern- most geothermal site on Earth, to evaluate the ecological significance of global-scale microbial dispersal. There, hot, fumarolic soils provide an effective environmental filter to test the viability of organisms that have been distributed via aeolian transport over geological time. We find that cosmopolitan thermophiles dominate the surface, whereas endemic Archaea and members of poorly understood Bacterial candidate divisions dominate the immediate subsurface. These results imply that aeolian processes readily disperse viable organisms globally, where they are incorporated into pre-existing complex communities of endemic and cosmopolitan taxa. 

  • Microbial Ecology of Geothermal Habitats in Antarctica

    Herbold et al, 2014

    Geothermal features in Antarctica generate liquid water and establish physicochemical gradients that provide habitat for diverse microbes. Studies on the microbial ecology of these features using traditional techniques have shown that the high-altitude, continental volcanoes (Mt. Erebus, Mt. Melbourne and Mt. Rittmann) possess microbial communities that share key taxa and are unique from the communities found in the distant geothermal habitats at Deception Island. In recent years, the application of molecular work has revealed the presence of potentially endemic organisms that previously escaped detection. While still in its infancy, the application of molecular strategies promises to revolutionize our current understanding of this habitat.