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Exploration of Antarctic Subglacial Aquatic Environments: Environmental and Scientific Stewardship EXPLORATION OF ANTARCTIC SUBGLACIAL AQUATIC ENVIRONMENTS Environmental and Scientific Stewardship Committee on Principles of Environmental Stewardship for the Exploration and Study of Subglacial Environments Polar Research Board Division of Earth and Life Studies NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS Washington, D.C. www.nap.edu
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Exploration of Antarctic Subglacial Aquatic Environments: Environmental and Scientific Stewardship THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This study was supported by Contract/Grant No. ANT-0531226 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project. International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-10635-1 International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-10635-4 Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu Cover design by Michael Dudzik, the National Academies Press. Copyright 2007 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America
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Exploration of Antarctic Subglacial Aquatic Environments: Environmental and Scientific Stewardship THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org
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Exploration of Antarctic Subglacial Aquatic Environments: Environmental and Scientific Stewardship COMMITTEE ON PRINCIPLES OF ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP FOR THE EXPLORATION AND STUDY OF SUBGLACIAL ENVIRONMENTS JOHN E. HOBBIE (Chair), Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts AMY BAKER, Technical Administrative Services, Littleton, Colorado GARRY CLARKE, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada PETER T. DORAN, University of Illinois at Chicago, Earth and Environmental Sciences DAVID KARL, University of Hawaii at Manoa, School of Ocean and Earth Science, Honolulu BARBARA METHÉ, The Institute for Genomic Research, Rockville, Maryland HEINZ MILLER, Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Germany SAMUEL B. MUKASA, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor MARGARET RACE, SETI Institute, Lafayette, California WARWICK VINCENT, Département de Biologie, Université Laval, Québec, Canada DAVID WALTON, British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, United Kingdom JAMES WHITE, University of Colorado, Boulder National Research Council Staff MARIA UHLE, Study Director PAUL CUTLER, Study Director until June 2006 RACHAEL SHIFLETT, Senior Program Assistant
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Exploration of Antarctic Subglacial Aquatic Environments: Environmental and Scientific Stewardship POLAR RESEARCH BOARD ROBIN BELL (Chair), Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, New York JAMES E. BERNER, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Anchorage, Alaska DAVID BROMWICH, The Ohio State University, Bryd Polar Research Center, Columbus CALVIN ROBERT CLAUER, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor JODY W. DEMING, University of Washington, School of Oceanography, Seattle ANDREW G. FOUNTAIN, Portland State University, Oregon SVEN D. HAAKANSON, Alutiiq Museum, Kodiak, Alaska LAWRENCE HAMILTON, University of New Hampshire, Durham LARRY HINZMAN, International Arctic Research Center, Alaska STEPHANIE PFIRMAN, Barnard College, New York, New York DIANA HARRISON WALL, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins JAMES WHITE, University of Colorado, Department of Geological Sciences, Boulder ExOfficio: JACKIE GREBMEIER, University of Tennessee, Knoxville MAHLON C. KENNICUTT II (U.S. Delegate to SCAR), Texas A&M University, College Station TERRY WILSON (Alternate U.S. Delegate to SCAR), Ohio State University, Columbus NRC Staff CHRIS ELFRING, Director MARIA UHLE, Program Officer RACHAEL SHIFLETT, Senior Program Assistant ANDREAS SOHRE, Financial Associate
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Exploration of Antarctic Subglacial Aquatic Environments: Environmental and Scientific Stewardship Acknowledgments This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Charlie Bentley, University of Wisconsin Don Blankenship, University of Texas, Austin Joyce Jatko, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) Andrew Fountain, Portland State University John Priscu, Montana State University John Rummel, NASA Headquarters Sergey Bulat, Russian Academy of Sciences Martin Siegert, University of Edinburgh Lonnie Thompson, The Ohio State University Martyn Tranter, University of Bristol Although the reviewers listed above have provided constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the report’s conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Mary Albert, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory. Appointed by the National Research Council, she was responsible for making
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Exploration of Antarctic Subglacial Aquatic Environments: Environmental and Scientific Stewardship certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
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Exploration of Antarctic Subglacial Aquatic Environments: Environmental and Scientific Stewardship Contents SUMMARY 1 1 INTRODUCTION 11 The Discovery of Subglacial Lakes, 13 SCAR and International Exploration of Subglacial Aquatic Environments, 23 Determining the Suitability of Subglacial Aquatic Environments for Exploration, 26 Antarctic Preservation Values, 28 Purpose of this Report, 29 2 GEOLOGICAL AND GEOPHYSICAL SETTING 32 Basin Settlings: Rift and Non-Rift, 32 Basement Rock Characteristics, 34 Ice Sheet Description, 37 Geographical Location of Antarctic Subglacial Lakes, 40 Pre-Ice Sheet Lakes and Sediments, 43 Age of Lakes and Water Residence Time, 43 Lake Connectivity, 44 Circulation and Stratification, 49 Sediment Environment, 55 Gases, 57 Conclusions, 59 3 SUBGLACIAL ENVIRONMENTS: BIOLOGICAL FEATURES 62 Introduction, 62 Requirements for Life, 62 Potential Impediments to Life in Subglacial Aquatic Environments, 64 Source Populations, 68
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Exploration of Antarctic Subglacial Aquatic Environments: Environmental and Scientific Stewardship Evolution of Life in Subglacial Aquatic Environments, 70 Current Evidence for Life in Subglacial Aquatic Environments, 73 Biology—Conclusions, 78 4 DRILLING AND SAMPLING TECHNOLOGIES AND THE POTENTIAL FOR CONTAMINATION 81 Technologies to Access Subglacial Aquatic Environments, 81 Needs for Technology Developments, 86 Potential for Chemical Contamination, 88 Potential Sources of Biological Contamination, 93 Other Potential Sources of Contamination—Particulates in the Fluid, 94 Potential for Testing and Assessing Contamination: Experiences from Deep Biosphere Sampling, 96 Potential for Testing and Assessing Contamination: Experiences from Interplanetary Research, 98 What Levels of Cleanliness are Feasible When Accessing Subglacial Environments?, 100 Biological Contaminant Detection, 100 Conclusions, 101 5 ANTARCTIC GOVERNANCE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR EXPLORATION OF SUBGLACIAL AQUATIC ENVIRONMENTS 104 Antarctic Treaty, 104 Planetary Protection and the Outer Space Treaty, 105 Management Goals for Good Stewardship, 110 Conclusions, 112 6 FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 114 Toward Exploration of Subglacial Environments, 114 Next Steps in Subglacial Exploration, 116 Toward Establishing Levels of Cleanliness, 119 Exploration Protocols, 122 Research Needs, 124 Guidelines for Stewardship, Management, and Project Review, 125 REFERENCES 129 APPENDIXES A Statement of Task 143 B Biographical Sketches of Committee Members 145 C List of Acronyms 150