Abstract Detail

Floristics & Taxonomy

Sokoloff, Paul [1], Murray, David [2], McBeth, Samantha [3], Irvine, Michael [4], Saarela, Jeffery [1], Srivastava, Anushree [2], Murakami, Yusuke [2], Freebury, Colin [1], McMullin, Troy [1], Doubt, Jennifer [1], Rupert, Shannon [1].

The botany of "Mars": ongoing floristic work at the Mars Desert Research Station, Utah.

The Mars Desert Research Station outside of Hanksville, Utah, USA, is an internationally known Mars mission simulation facility, set in a Martian planetary analog desert just south of the floristically unique San Rafael Swell. Crews rotate through the station on one week to three month-long Martian simulation missions seeking to learn how best to live and work on our planetary neighbour, and often conducting geological and astrobiological field research across the station’s local exploration area.
Though there is a long history of botanical exploration in protected areas nearby, collections-based research at MDRS has only recently begun. Our team has been conducting floristic research at MDRS for the past eight years, collecting vascular plant and lichen specimens in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2019.
To date we have documented 80 vascular plant taxa from the MDRS area (78 species and two genera) from 24 families. These include species commonly found in the deserts across the southwest United States (such as Populus fremontii, Eriogonum inflatum, Sphaeralcea coccinea) as well as species endemic to San Rafael Swell, a unique geological feature north of the station (Hoffmannseggia repens, Astragalus woodruffii, Eremocrinum albomarginatum). We predict that the local flora is much richer, as we have yet to study the site in the spring or summer, and nearby vascular plant inventories indicate a more diverse flora than what we have documented. A collecting trip planned for June 2022 may additional species.
One of the central projects to the Mars 160 Mission – a long-term simulation pairing missions at MDRS with the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station on Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada - was a lichen biodiversity survey of the station. We have identified 26 lichen species from the area surrounding the station, such as the locally common Acarospora strigata. We have also identified two moss species collected during this effort.
Endolithic algae are important components of biological soils crusts in desert environments and are present throughout much of the sandstone formations surrounding the station. Six taxa of endolithic and endophytic algae and cyanobacteria have been identified from MDRS.
This work has been documented in two annotated checklists. These inventories will provide useful baseline data both to crews at MDRS and to botanists working in southeast Utah.

1 - Canadian Museum of Nature, Canadian Museum of Nature, 1740 Ch. Pink, Gatineau, Qu├ębec, J9J 3N7, Canada
2 - Mars Society, Lakewood, CO, USA
3 - Polar Knowledge Canada, Ontario, Canada
4 - LiveIt, Nelson, British Columbia, Canada
5 - Mars Society, Lakewood, CO, USA

Planetary Analog.

Presentation Type: Poster
Number: PFT005
Abstract ID:418
Candidate for Awards:None

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