Effects of sample mass and macrofossil type on radiocarbon dating of arctic and boreal lake sediments

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Dating lake sediments by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) {sup 14}C analysis of plant macrofossils overcomes one of the main problems associated with dating bulk sediment samples, the presence of old organic matter. Even so, many AMS dates from arctic and boreal sites appear to misrepresent the age of the sediment. To understand the nature of these apparent dating anomalies better, we conducted a series of {sup 14}C dating experiments using samples from Alaskan and Siberian lake-sediment cores. First, to test whether our analytical procedures introduced a sample-mass bias, we obtained {sup 14}C dates for different-sized pieces of single woody macrofossils. ... continued below

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Oswald, W. W.; Anderson, P. M.; Brown, T. A.; Brubaker, L. B.; Hu, F. S.; Lozhkin, A. V. et al. May 29, 2006.

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Dating lake sediments by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) {sup 14}C analysis of plant macrofossils overcomes one of the main problems associated with dating bulk sediment samples, the presence of old organic matter. Even so, many AMS dates from arctic and boreal sites appear to misrepresent the age of the sediment. To understand the nature of these apparent dating anomalies better, we conducted a series of {sup 14}C dating experiments using samples from Alaskan and Siberian lake-sediment cores. First, to test whether our analytical procedures introduced a sample-mass bias, we obtained {sup 14}C dates for different-sized pieces of single woody macrofossils. In these sample-mass experiments, sized statistically equivalent ages were found for samples as small as 0.05 mg C. Second, to assess whether macrofossil type influenced dating results, we conducted sample-type experiments in which {sup 14}C dates were obtained for different macrofossil types sieved from the same depth in the sediment. We dated materials from multiple levels in sediment cores from Upper Capsule Lake (North Slope, northern Alaska) and Grizzly Lake (Copper River Basin, southern Alaska), and from single depths in other records from northern Alaska. In several of the experiments there were significant discrepancies between dates for different plant tissues, and in most cases wood and charcoal were older than other macrofossil types, usually by several hundred years. This pattern suggests that {sup 14}C dates for woody macrofossils may misrepresent the age of the sediment by centuries, perhaps due to their longer terrestrial residence time and the potential in-built age of long-lived plants. This study identifies why some {sup 14}C dates appear to be inconsistent with the overall age-depth trend of a lake-sediment record, and it may guide the selection of {sup 14}C samples in future studies.

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PDF-file: 32 pages; size: 0.7 Mbytes

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  • Journal Name: The Holocene, vol. 15, no. 5, August 1, 2005, pp. 758-767; Journal Volume: 15; Journal Issue: 5

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  • Report No.: UCRL-JRNL-221728
  • Grant Number: W-7405-ENG-48
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 900864
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc889381

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  • May 29, 2006

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  • Sept. 22, 2016, 2:13 a.m.

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  • Dec. 5, 2016, 2:46 p.m.

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Oswald, W. W.; Anderson, P. M.; Brown, T. A.; Brubaker, L. B.; Hu, F. S.; Lozhkin, A. V. et al. Effects of sample mass and macrofossil type on radiocarbon dating of arctic and boreal lake sediments, article, May 29, 2006; Livermore, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc889381/: accessed December 12, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.