The McMurdo Dry Valleys form the largest relatively ice-free area on the Antarctic continent. The perennially ice-covered lakes, ephemeral streams and extensive areas of exposed soil are subject to low temperatures, limited precipitation and salt accumulation. The dry valleys thus represent a region where life approaches its environmental limits. This unique ecosystem has been studied for several decades as an analog to environments on other planets, particularly Mars. For the first time, the detailed terrestrial research of the dry valleys is brought together here, presented from an astrobiological perspective. Chapters include a discussion on the history of research in the valleys, a geological background of the valleys, setting them up as analogs for Mars, followed by chapters on the various sub-environments in the valleys such as lakes, glaciers and soils. Includes concluding chapters on biodiversity and other analog environments on Earth.
Table of Contents1. Introduction Peter T. Doran, W. Berry Lyons and Diane M. McKnight; 2. Geologic analogies between the surface of Mars and the McMurdo Dry Valleys: microclimate-related geomorphic features and evidence for climate change David R. Marchant and James W. Head; 3. The legacy of aqueous environments on soils of the McMurdo Dry Valleys: contexts for future exploration of Martian soils Jeb E. Barrett, Michael A. Poage, Michael A. Gooseff and Cristina Takacs-Vesbach; 4. The Antarctic cryptoendolithic microbial ecosystem Henry J. Sun, James A. Nienow and Christopher P. McKay; 5. Antarctic McMurdo Dry Valley stream ecosystems as analog to fluvial systems on Mars Michael A. Gooseff, Diane M. McKnight, Michael H. Carr and Jenny Baeseman; 6. Saline lakes and ponds in the McMurdo Dry Valleys: ecological analogs to Martian paleolake environments Jill Mikucki, W. Berry Lyons, I. Hawes, Brian D. Lanoil and Peter T. Doran; 7. The biogeochemistry and hydrology of Dry Valley glaciers: is there life on Martian ice now? Martyn Tranter, Elizabeth Bagshaw, Andrew Fountain and Christine Foreman; 8. Factors promoting microbial diversity in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica Cristina Takacs-Vesbach, Lydia Zeglin, Jeb E. Barrett, Michael A. Gooseff and John C. Priscu; 9. Other analogs to Mars: high altitude, subsurface, desert, and polar environments Nathalie A. Cabrol, Dale T. Andersen, Carol R. Stoker, Pascal Lee, Christopher P. McKay and David S. Wettergreen.