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LTER Key Research Findings

Among the many research results from LTER sites, some findings stand out as being particularly important to achieve the LTER goal of providing information to conserve, protect, and manage the nation's ecosystems. Short descriptions of key findings at each site emphasize the importance of long-term data in understanding the pace and pattern of ecological change.

Chain Reaction (MCM LTER)
MCM scientists are contributing to the recognition that ecosystem responses to climate change are not necessarily gradual or directional, especially in low diversity ecosystems where harsh environmental conditions dominate (Fig. 1). For example, in soil ecosystems in the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica there are only a few soil nematode species, compared to the hundreds in a temperate soil...
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Fast Geochemistry (MCM LTER)
The ubiquitous dissolution of soils and sediments results in dissolved loads of major ions and nutrients to streams. In most temperate watersheds, the rate of weathering is generally positively correlated to temperature and precipitation. In the cold and dry McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica, dilute glacial melt water generated during 8-10 weeks in the austral summer flows into well-defined...
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Habitats on Ice (MCM LTER)
Cryoconite (cold dust) holes are small ~10 cm diameter, water-filled, cylindrical holes (~10^3 cm) found in the glacier surface. Often, these holes contain algae. While common to glaciers globally, those in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica are covered by ice. Sand patches on the ice surface, blown on to the glacier by wind, melt into the ice. Once below the surface, the sand absorbs energy from the...
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Organics From Microbes (MCM LTER)
The McMurdo Dry Valleys and other desert oases on the coast of East Antarctica are essentially "plant-free" environments. As a result the dissolved organic material (DOM) present in the water of the dry valley lakes and streams is derived only from the breakdown of biomass originally produced by microbes, e.g. algae and bacteria. These microbes grow in the water column of the lakes, such as...
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Waiting in Winter Darkness (MCM LTER)
The permanently ice-covered lakes studied in the MCM can be considered as an oasis for life in this cold desert because they are some of the few habitats on the Antarctic continent that contain year-round liquid water. Strong microbial linkages have been defined in all of thse lakes and point to the tight coupling of carbon and other nutrients and the reliance of the system on phytoplankton...
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