While the rest of the LTER Soils team was busy setting up the new experiment near Many Glaciers Pond, Zach, Jeremy, and Martijn went to sample soil and apply scheduled treatments at the Biotic Effects Experiment (BEE) plot near Lake Fryxell at F6 in Taylor Valley, one of three locations where BEE plots have been established in the Taylor Valley. All of the BEE plots were established during the 1999-2000 season.

F6 is the name for a U.S. field camp situated near where Van Guerard Stream empties into Lake Fryxell. Field camps have been established at strategic locations throughout the Dry Valleys to support ongoing scientific work in the area. They serve as camping, staging, and emergency survival locations for scientists.

F6 field camp

Van Guerard Stream

The BEE plots (stakes and ITEX chambers seen) with Lake Fryxell and the Commonwealth Glacier in the background

There are four different treatments at the BEE plots:

  1. Control (no treatment)
  2. Soil warming with ITEX chamber
  3. Water added
  4. Soil warming and water added

The purpose of the experiment is to see how the soil ecosystem throughout Taylor Valley will respond to environmental change. As predicted by climate change models, it is expected that the soil temperature will increase and that more water will be present in the soil.

Zach holding a spare ITEX chamber used to add water to the water only plots. Permanent chambers are staked into the ground in the background.

The first step was to sample soil from the 24 plots. A few of the plots still had ice right underneath the surface from adding water last year! We had to get creative to chisel out enough soil to sample. Next, we needed to add 5.6 liters of water to the “water added” plots. Our final task was to perform maintenance on the ITEX chambers by making sure that they were all strapped down securely. Strong katabatic winds in the Dry Valleys can destroy experiments if they are not securely anchored.

Zach and Martijn filling up a portable watering can with water

Jeremy watering a temperature warming and water added plot

We were able to finish up our work quickly so the helicopter picked us up a little bit early.