Permanent link to Research Commons versionhttps://hdl.handle.net/10289/15049
Outlet glaciers that flow through the Transantarctic Mountains (TAM) experienced changes in ice thickness greater than other coastal regions of Antarctica during glacial maxima. As a result, ice-free areas that are currently exposed may have been covered by ice at various points during the Cenozoic, complicating our understanding of ecological succession in TAM soils. Our knowledge of glacial extent on small spatial scales is limited for the TAM, and studies of soil exposure duration and disturbance, in particular, are rare. We collected surface soil samples and, in some places, depth profiles every 5 cm to refusal (up to 30 cm) from 11 ice-free areas along Shackleton Glacier, a major outlet glacier of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. We explored the relationship between meteoric ¹⁰Be and NO₃⁻ in these soils as a tool for understanding landscape disturbance and wetting history and as exposure proxies. Concentrations of meteoric ¹⁰Be spanned more than an order of magnitude across the region (2.9×108 to 73×108 atoms g⁻¹) and are among the highest measured in polar regions. The concentrations of NO₃⁻ were similarly variable and ranged from ∼ μg g⁻¹ to 15 mg g⁻¹. In examining differences and similarities in the concentrations of ¹⁰Be and NO₃⁻ with depth, we suggest that much of the southern portion of the Shackleton Glacier region has likely developed under a hyper-arid climate regime with minimal disturbance. Finally, we inferred exposure time using ¹⁰Be concentrations. This analysis indicates that the soils we analyzed likely range from recent exposure (following the Last Glacial Maximum) to possibly >6 Myr. We suggest that further testing and interrogation of meteoric ¹⁰Be and NO₃⁻ concentrations and relationships in soils can provide important information regarding landscape development, soil evolution processes, and inferred exposure durations of surfaces in the TAM.
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.