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This paper brings together topographic cross-section ‘windows’ from across Antarctica to illustrate soil–landscapes from the margins of the polar plateau in the Transantarctic Mountains and McMurdo Dry Valleys, through East Antarctic coastal areas, to the northern Antarctic Peninsula Region. Soils identified range from Gelisols in the Ross Sea Region, through Gelisols and Entisols in coastal East Antarctica, to a mixture of Gelisols, Entisols, Spodosols and Inceptisols in the northern Antarctic Peninsula Region where permafrost is not ubiquitous. The relative impacts of the soil-forming factors are considered. At a continental scale climate is the main driver of the differences observed between soils in different areas. At local scales strong soil–topographic relationships are observed. Organisms, time and parent material are dominant influences on soil properties only in relatively localized situations. Organisms dominate in areas of organic matter or guano accumulation and time is a dominant influence on exceptionally old upland surfaces in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. The US Department of Agriculture’s Soil Taxonomy gives a useful overall appraisal of Antarctic soils; however, for detailed work, there is a need to introduce some new categories at subgroup level to better capture the range of soils described.

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