Antarctic continental soils are arid, saline and lacking in organic matter, whereas maritime soils, in a wetter environment, range from structureless lithosols to frozen peat. Two important factors in the development and diversity of their associated terrestrial communities are water availability and the period of exposure since deglaciation. The retreat of ice sheets offers new sites for colonization by microbes, plants and animals. The interactions between snow lie, freeze-thaw cycles, wet-dry cycles and the length of the summer are considered as critical in determining the extent and rate of localized changes in weathering and pedogenesis. The implications of higher temperatures and differing precipitation regimes are considered in relation to weathering, soil development and the establishment and development of terrestrial communities. It is concluded that, in the context of decades, most changes will be slow and localized. They are unlikely to be of regional significance, unlike some of those in the Arctic. They will, however, provide a good model of how present soils and communities developed at the end of the last glacial maximum.