Hostname: page-component-88dd8db54-kmbnl Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-03-05T10:57:19.411Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Marine Reservoir Correction for the Southern Marshall Islands for the Past 2500 Years

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 July 2017

Marshall I Weisler*
School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072Australia
Quan Hua
Australia Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Locked Bag 2001, Kirrawee DC, New South Wales 2232, Australia
Jian-xin Zhao
Radiogenic Isotope Facility, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia
Ai Duc Nguyen
Radiogenic Isotope Facility, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia
Luke Nothdurft
School of Earth, Environmental and Biological Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, GPO Box 2434, Brisbane, Qld 4001, Australia
Hiroya Yamano
National Institute for Environmental Studies, 16-2 Onogawa, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8506, Japan
Morana Mihaljević
Integrated Palaeoenvironmental Research Group, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia
*Corresponding author. Email:


A robust marine radiocarbon (14C) reservoir correction (ΔR) is essential for calibrating 14C dates of marine mollusks and fish bones routinely found in archaeological sites as discarded food remains and bones of terrestrial animals (including humans) with an appreciable marine diet. New ΔR values are reported for the atoll archipelago of the Marshall Islands, eastern Micronesia. Atolls consist of biogenetic material—mostly coral and foraminifera—that can be directly dated for establishing sequences of atoll emergence and islet development. After sectioning and examination using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to screen for sample diagenesis, 6 pristine branch coral samples were selected from the modern oceanside beach, 3 archaeological sites, and islet developmental facies from Ebon Atoll (4º34′N, 168º41′E). Each sample was analyzed by U-series and accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C showing no substantial temporal ΔR variations and yielding a weighted mean ΔR of 41±42 yr1 spanning ~500 yr before earliest human colonization (the period when islets first became habitable) through the entire 2000-yr occupation sequence. Reliable published ΔR values for Micronesia and Δ14C data for Palmyra Island, together with our results for Ebon Atoll, indicate that the Pacific North Equatorial Counter Current is almost stable for the past 2500 yr.

Research Article
© 2017 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Note that throughout this paper we use yr as a shortened form of 14C yr when discussing ΔR values.


Broecker, WS, Olson, EA. 1961. Lamont radiocarbon measurements VIII. Radiocarbon 3(1):176204.Google Scholar
Bronk Ramsey, C. 2009. Bayesian analysis of radiocarbon dates. Radiocarbon 51(1):337360.Google Scholar
Burley, DV, Weisler, MI, Zhao, J-X. 2012. High precision U/Th dating of first Polynesian settlement. PLoS ONE 7(11). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048769.Google Scholar
Cheng, H, Edwards, RL, Hoff, J, Gallup, CD, Richards, DA, Asmerom, Y. 2000. The half-lives of uranium-234 and thorium-230. Chemical Geology 169(1–2):1733.Google Scholar
Christensen, CC, Weisler, MI. 2013. Land snails from archaeological sites in the Marshall Islands, with remarks on prehistoric translocations in tropical Oceania. Pacific Science 67(1):81104.Google Scholar
Clark, G, Anderson, A, Wright, D. 2006. Human colonization of the Palau Islands, western Micronesia. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 1(2):215232.Google Scholar
Clark, JT, Quintus, S, Weisler, MI, St Pierre, E, Nothdurft, L, Feng, Y, Hua, Q. 2016. Marine reservoir correction for American Samoa using U-series and AMS dated corals. Radiocarbon. 58(4):851868.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clark, TR, Zhao, J-x, Roff, G, Feng, Y-X, Done, TJ, Nothdurft, LD, Pandolfi, JM. 2014. Discerning the timing and cause of historical mortality events in modern Porites from the Great Barrier Reef. Geochimica Et Cosmochimica Acta 138:5780.Google Scholar
Dickinson, WR. 2001. Paleoshoreline record of relative Holocene sea levels on Pacific islands. Earth-Science Reviews 55:191234.Google Scholar
Dickinson, WR. 2003. Impact of mid-Holocene hydro-isostatic highstand in regional sea level on habitability of islands in Pacific Oceania. Journal of Coastal Research 19(3):489502.Google Scholar
Druffel, ERM, Griffin, S, Guilderson, TP, Kasahgarian, M, Southon, J, Schrag, DP. 2001. Changes of subtropical north Pacific radiocarbon and correlation with climate variability. Radiocarbon 43(1):1525.Google Scholar
Fink, D, Hotchkis, MAC, Hua, Q, Jacobsen, GE, Smith, AM, Zoppi, U, Child, D, Mifsud, C, van der Gaast, HA, Williams, AA, Williams, M. 2004. The ANTARES AMS Facility at ANSTO. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 223–224:109115.Google Scholar
Fosberg, FR. 1984. Phytogeographic comparison of Polynesia and Micronesia. B. P. Bishop Museum Special Publication 72:3344.Google Scholar
Guilderson, TP, Schrag, DP, Cane, MA. 2004. Surface water mixing in the Solomon Sea as documented by a high-resolution coral 14C record. Journal of Climate 17(5):11471156.Google Scholar
Horrocks, M, Weisler, MI. 2006. Analysis of plant microfossils in archaeological deposits from two remote archipelagos: the Marshall Islands, eastern Micronesia, and the Pitcairn Group, southeast Polynesia. Pacific Science 60(2):261280.Google Scholar
Hua, Q, Jacobsen, GE, Zoppi, U, Lawson, EM, Williams, AA, Smith, AM, McGann, MJ. 2001. Progress in radiocarbon target preparation at the ANTARES AMS Centre. Radiocarbon 43(2A):275282.Google Scholar
Hua, Q, Woodroffe, CD, Smithers, SG, Barbetti, M, Fink, D. 2005. Radiocarbon in corals from the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and implications for Indian Ocean circulation. Geophysical Research Letters 32, L21602. DOI: 10.1029/2005GL023882.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hua, Q, Webb, GE, Zhao, J-x, Nothdurft, LD, Lybolt, M, Price, GJ, Opdyke, BN. 2015. Large variations in the Holocene marine radiocarbon reservoir effect reflect ocean circulation and climatic changes. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 422:3344.Google Scholar
Huang, D, Roy, K. 2015. The future of evolutionary diversity in reef corals. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 370:20140010 10.1098/rstb.2014.0010 Google Scholar
Irwin, G. 1992. The Prehistoric Exploration and Colonisation of the Pacific. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jefferson, TA, Barros, NB. 1997. Peponocephala electra. Mammalian Species 553:16.Google Scholar
Jones, M, Petchey, F, Green, R, Sheppard, P, Phelan, M. 2007. The marine ∆R for Nenumbo (Solomon Islands): a case study in calculating reservoir offsets from paired sample data. Radiocarbon 49(1):95102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kayanne, H, Yasukochi, T, Yamaguchi, T, Yamano, H. 2011. Rapid settlement of Majuro Atoll, central Pacific, following its emergence at 2000 years calBP. Geophysical Research Letters 38,L20405, DOI: 10.1029/2011GL049163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kirch, PV, Sharp, WD. 2005. Coral 230Th dating of the imposition of a ritual control hierarchy in precontact Hawaii. Science 307:102104.Google Scholar
Ludwig, KR. 2012. User’s Manual for Isoplot 3.75: a Geochronological Toolkit for Microsoft Excel. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Geochronology Center. Special Publication No. 5.Google Scholar
McLean, RF, Woodroffe, CD. 1994. Coral atolls. In: Carter RWG, Woodroffe CD, editors. Coastal Evolution: Late Quaternary Shoreline Morphodynamics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p 267302.Google Scholar
Nothdurft, LD, Webb, GE. 2009. Earliest diagenesis in scleractinian coral skeletons: implications for palaeoclimate-sensitive geochemical archives. Facies 55:161201.Google Scholar
Nunn, PD. 1994. Oceanic Islands. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Östlund, HG, Stuiver, M. 1980. GEOSECS Pacific radiocarbon. Radiocarbon 22(1):2555.Google Scholar
Petchey, F, Anderson, A, Zondervan, A, Ulm, S, Hogg, A. 2008. New marine ΔR values for the South Pacific subtropical gyre region. Radiocarbon 50(3):373397.Google Scholar
Petchey, F, Allen, MS, Addison, DJ, Anderson, A. 2009. Stability in the South Pacific surface marine 14C reservoir over the last 750 years. Evidence from American Samoa, southern Cook Islands and the Marquesas. Journal of Archaeological Science 36(10):22342243.Google Scholar
Petchey, F, Clark, G. 2010. A marine reservoir correction value (∆R) for the Palauan archipelago: environmental and oceanographic considerations. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 5(2):236252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pregill, GK, Weisler, MI. 2007. Lizards from prehistoric sites on Ebon Atoll, Marshall Islands. Micronesica 39(2):107115.Google Scholar
Reimer, RW, Reimer, PJ. 2016. An online application for ΔR calculation. Radiocarbon. DOI: Scholar
Reimer, PJ, Bard, E, Bayliss, A, Beck, JW, Blackwell, PG, Bronk Ramsey, C, Buck, CE, Cheng, H, Edwards, RL, Friedrich, M, Grootes, PM, Guilderson, TP, Haflidason, H, Hajdas, I, Hatté, C, Heaton, TJ, Hoffmann, DL, Hogg, AG, Hughen, KA, Kaiser, KF, Kromer, B, Manning, SW, Niu, M, Reimer, RW, Richards, RA, Scott, EM, Southon, JR, Staff, RA, Turney, CSM, van der Plicht, J. 2013. IntCal13 and Marine13 radiocarbon age calibration curves 0–50,000 years cal BP. Radiocarbon 55(4):18691887.Google Scholar
Sadler, J, Webb, GE, Nothdurft, LD, Dechnik, B. 2014. Geochemistry-based coral palaeoclimate studies and the potential of ‘non-traditional’ (non-massive Porites) corals: recent developments and future progression. Earth-Science Reviews 139:291316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schmidt-Roach, S, Miller, KJ, Lundgren, P, Andreakis, N. 2014. With eyes wide open: a revision of species within and closely related to the Pocillopora damicornis species complex (Scleractinia; Pocilloporidae) using morphology and genetics. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 170(1):133.Google Scholar
Stoddart, DR. 1992. Biogeography of the tropical Pacific. Pacific Science 46(2):276293.Google Scholar
Swindler, DR, Weisler, MI. 2000. Dental size and morphology of precontact Marshall Islanders (Micronesia) compared with other Pacific islanders. Anthropological Science 108(3):261282.Google Scholar
Swindler, DR, Weisler, MI. 2002. Rocker jaws from the Marshall Islands: evidence for interaction between eastern Micronesia and west Polynesia. People and Culture in Oceania 18:2333.Google Scholar
Tomczak, M, Godfrey, JS. 2001. Regional Oceanography: An Introduction. Version 1.0. Oxford: Elsevier Science Ltd. Available at Google Scholar
Veron, JEN, Devantier, LM, Turak, E, Green, AL, Kininmonth, S, Stafford-Smith, M, Peterson, N. 2009. Delineating the coral triangle. Galaxea, Journal of Coral Reef Studies 11:91100.Google Scholar
Veron, JEN, Stafford-Smith, M. 2000. Corals of the World. Three volumes. Townsville, Australia: Australian Institute of Marine Science.Google Scholar
Webb, GE, Nothdurft, LD, Kamber, BS, Kloprogge, JT, Zhao, JX. 2009. Rare earth element geochemistry of scleractinian coral skeleton during meteoric diagenesis: a sequence through neomorphism of aragonite to calcite. Sedimentology 56(5):14331463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Weisler, MI. 1999a. Atolls as settlement landscapes: Ujae, Marshall Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin 460.Google Scholar
Weisler, MI. 1999b. The antiquity and significance of aroid pit agriculture and buried A horizons on Pacific atolls. Geoarchaeology 14(7):621654.Google Scholar
Weisler, MI. 2000. Burial artifacts from the Marshall Islands: description, dating, and evidence for extra- archipelago contacts. Micronesica 33(1/2):113138.Google Scholar
Weisler, MI. 2001a. Life on the edge: prehistoric settlement and economy on Utrōk Atoll, northern Marshall Islands. Archaeology in Oceania 36(3):109133.Google Scholar
Weisler, MI. 2001b. On the Margins of Sustainability: Prehistoric Settlement of Utrōk Atoll Northern Marshall Islands. British Archaeological Reports International Series 967.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Weisler, MI. 2002. Archaeological Survey and Test Excavations on Ebon Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. Report prepared for the Historic Preservation Office, Ministry of Interior, Republic of the Marshall Islands.Google Scholar
Weisler, MI, Collerson, K, Feng, Y-X, Zhao, J-X, Yu, K-F. 2006. Thorium-230 coral chronology of a late prehistoric Hawaiian chiefdom. Journal of Archaeological Science 33(2):273282.Google Scholar
Weisler, MI, Hua, Q, Zhao, J-X. 2009. Late Holocene 14C marine reservoir corrections for Hawai‘i derived from U-series dated archaeological coral. Radiocarbon 51(3):955968.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Weisler, MI, Yamano, H, Hua, Q. 2012. A multidisciplinary approach for dating human colonization of Pacific Atolls. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 7(1):102125.Google Scholar
Wells, JW. 1954. An Ecologic and Taxonomic Analysis of Living Reef- and Non-Reef-Building Corals at Bikini and other Marshall Islands Atolls. Recent Corals of the Marshall Islands. Bikini and Nearby Atolls, Part 2, Oceanography (Biological). Geological Survey Professional paper 260-I. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
Wiens, HJ. 1962. Atoll Environment and Ecology. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Williamson, I, Sabath, MD. 1982. Island population, land area, and climate: a case study of the Marshall Islands. Human Ecology 10(1):7184.Google Scholar
Woodroffe, CD, Samosorn, B, Hua, Q, Hart, DR. 2007. Incremental accretion of a sandy island over the past 3000 years indicated by component-specific radiocarbon dating. Geophysical Research Letters 34, L03602. DOI: 10.1029/2006GL028875.Google Scholar
Yamano, H, Kayanne, H, Matsuda, F, Tsuji, Y. 2002. Lagoonal facies, age, and sedimentation in three atolls in the Pacific. Marine Geology 185(3–4):233247.Google Scholar
Yoneda, M, Uno, H, Shibata, Y, Suzuki, R, Kumamoto, Y, Yoshida, K, Sasaki, T, Suzuki, A, Kawahata, H. 2007. Radiocarbon marine reservoir ages in the western Pacific estimated by pre-bomb molluscan shells. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 259:432–37.Google Scholar
Zaunbrecher, LK, Cobb, KM, Beck, JW, Charles, CD, Druffel, ERM, Fairbanks, RG, Griffin, S, Sayani, HR. 2010. Coral records of central tropical Pacific radiocarbon variability during the last millennium. Paleoceanography 25:PA4212. DOI: Scholar