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The McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV), the largest ice-free portion of Antarctica, is a unique and fragile ecosystem that has been designated as an Antarctic Specially Managed Area (ASMA). Human activities, including scientific research, are thus carefully regulated to minimize potential damage to the landscape and ecosystem.

A workshop, held in May 2016, outlined actions to be considered by entities engaged in the responsible research and preservation of the McMurdo Dry Valleys. This workshop, initiated by McMurdo (MCM) LTER scientists, builds off of three similar workshops held in the 1990’s to develop initial protocols for working in this region. Changes in technology, climate, and the nature of human activity mean the environmental challenges faced by the MDV are dynamic and constantly developing as well. For example, as Remotely and Autonomously Operated Vehicles become more affordable and technically capable the impact of their use in the MDV needs to be evaluated. As such, the new environmental stewardship report outlines a management framework that assess current pressures on the MDV, either global change or direct human impacts, and then recommends and implements direct responses to them. This feedback loop will support more responsive and agile management of the MDV to support the improvement of its environmental state.

MCM LTER scientists work in collaboration with NSF and other international partners to reduce current and potential impacts on the landscape and maintain ecosystem functioning of the McMurdo Dry Valleys. The full workshop report can be found on the MCM LTER environmental stewardship page.