Antarctic Science


Interactions between climate, vegetation and the active layer in soils at two Maritime Antarctic sites

N. Cannone a1c1, J.C. Ellis Evans a2, R. Strachan a2 and M. Guglielmin a3
a1 University of Ferrara, Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Corso Ercole I d'Este, 32, 44100 Ferrara, Italy
a2 British Antarctic Survey, NERC, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK
a3 DBSF, University Insubria Varese, Via Ravasi, 2, 21200 Varese, Italy

Article author query
cannone n   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
ellis evans jc   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
strachan r   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
guglielmin m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


In the summer 2000–01, thermal monitoring of the permafrost active layer within various terrestrial sites covered by lichen, moss or grasses was undertaken at Jubany (King George Island) and Signy Island in the Maritime Antarctic. The results demonstrated the buffering effect of vegetation on ground surface temperature (GST) and the relationship between vegetation and active layer thickness. Vegetation type and coverage influenced the GST in both locations with highest variations and values in the Deschampsia and Usnea sites and the lowest variations and values in the Jubany moss site. Active layer thickness ranged from 57 cm (Jubany moss site) to 227 cm (Signy Deschampsia site). Active layer thickness data from Signy were compared with data collected at the same location four decades earlier. Using a regression equation for air temperature versus ground surface temperatures the patterns of changing air temperature over time suggest that the active layer thickness increased c. 30 cm between 1963 and 1990 and then decreased 30 cm between 1990 and 2000. The documented increased rate of warming (2°C ± 1) since 1950 for air temperatures recorded in the South Orkney Islands suggests that the overall trend of active layer thickness increase will be around 1 cm year−1.

(Received March 30 2005)
(Accepted April 4 2006)

Key Words: ground temperature; permafrost; South Shetland Islands; South Orkney Islands; vegetation buffering effect.

c1 corresponding author: