The Argentine Islands is one of the relatively richly vegetated regions of the maritime Antarctic, with the most developed vegetation type being the Antarctic herb tundra formation. In the present study we address the soils of the central island of this archipelago, Galindez Island, to investigate their morphology, chemistry, trace element contents, microbiological characteristics in order to provide a complex description of the soils of central maritime Antarctica. We found the region to be characterised by ornithic soils (Ornithosols), Leptosols, Gleysols, and Histosols. Their distribution appeared to depend on a number of factors, such as the proximity and size of penguin rookeries, characteristics of the parent rocks, the resident plants communities, and hydrological conditions. The active layer of these soils is shallow (20-40 cm), but is significantly thicker than at King George Island (30-150 cm). The examined soils demonstrate substantial accumulation of carbon and nitrogen, which is not typical for the Antarctic barrens; therefore, they are classified as tundra-type soils. The current and former effects of zoogenic material have played a key role in the soils' enrichment with biogenic elements via both direct deposition and intensification of biological processes. The latter effect is weakest in ornithic soils, but all the other types of the regional soils have been strongly impacted by vegetation. The studied soils were found to be quite heterogeneous in regard to their trace element content, probably caused by both natural sources in the parent rocks and anthropogenic pollution. Ornithic soils were found to have highest abundances in microbiota. The soils of Galindez Island are exposed to ongoing climate changes and anthropogenic impacts; therefore, continued monitoring and conservation are important.
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