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Calculation of Past Dead Carbon Proportion and Variability by the Comparison of AMS 14C and Tims U/TH Ages on Two Holocene Stalagmites

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2016

Dominique Genty
Université de Paris-Sud, Laboratoire d'Hydrologie et de Géochimie Isotopique, EP 1748, CNRS, bât. 504, F-91405 Orsay Cedex, France
Marc Massault
Université de Paris-Sud, Laboratoire d'Hydrologie et de Géochimie Isotopique, EP 1748, CNRS, bât. 504, F-91405 Orsay Cedex, France
Mabs Gilmour
The Open University, Department of Earth Sciences, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, England
Andy Baker
University of Exeter, Department of Geography, Amory Building, Rennes Drive, EX4 4RJ Exeter, England
Sophie Verheyden
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, WE-GISO, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussel, Belgium
Eddy Kepens
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, WE-GISO, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussel, Belgium
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Twenty-two radiocarbon activity measurements were made by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) on 2 Holocene stalagmites from Belgium (Han-stm1b) and from southwest France (Vil-stm1b). Sixteen thermal ionization mass spectrometric (TIMS) U/Th measurements were performed parallel to AMS analyses. The past dead carbon proportion (dcp) due to limestone dissolution and old soil organic matter (SOM) degradation is calculated with U/Th ages, measured calcite 14C activity and atmospheric 14C activity from the dendrochronological calibration curves. Results show that the dcp is different for the 2 stalagmites: between 10,800 and 4780 yr from present dcp=17.5% (σ=2.4; n=10) for Han-stm1b and dcp=9.4% (σ=1.6; n=6) between 3070 and 520 yr for Vil-stm1b. Despite a broad stability of the dcp during the time ranges covered by each sample, a slight dcp increase of about 5.0% is observed in the Han-stm1b sample between 8500 and 5200 yr. This change is synchronous with a calcite δ13C increase, which could be due to variation in limestone dissolution processes possibly linked with a vegetation change. The dcp and δ13C of the 2 studied samples are compared with 5 other modern stalagmites from Europe. Results show that several factors intervene, among them: the vegetation type, and the soil saturation leading to variable dissolution process systems (open/closed). The good correlation (R2=0.98) between the U/Th ages and the calibrated 14C ages corrected with a constant dcp validates the 14C method. However, the dcp error leads to large 14C age errors (i.e. 250–500 yr for the period studied), which is an obstacle for both a high-resolution chronology and the improvement of the 14C calibration curves, at least for the Holocene.

Copyright © 1999 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 


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