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Bomb 14C Recorded in Laminated Speleothems: Calculation of Dead Carbon Proportion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2016

Dominique Genty
Affiliation:
Université de Paris-Sud, Laboratoire d'Hydrologie et de Géochimie Isotopique, URA 723 CNRS, bâtiment 504, F-91405 Orsay Cedex, France
Marc Massault
Affiliation:
Université de Paris-Sud, Laboratoire d'Hydrologie et de Géochimie Isotopique, URA 723 CNRS, bâtiment 504, F-91405 Orsay Cedex, France
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Abstract

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We performed radiocarbon measurements using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) on 6 stalagmites 3 stalactites and 7 seepage waters from four different caves in Southwest France and Belgium in order to calculate the dead carbon proportion (dcp). All the speleothems studied are modern and annually laminated, which offers the advantage of an accurate chronology, with better than one-year resolution. Coupled with the fact that very little calcite is necessary for an AMS measurement (between 1.5 and 7 yr of calcite deposit), we obtained dead carbon values within an uncertainty limit of ± 1.5%. Results show that the dead carbon proportion varies from 9.2% to 21.9% for calcite deposits and from 3.6% to 21.9% for water. In each sampling site, the dcp is homogeneous. Although the inter-site dcp varies by >11%, its average value of 15.5% ± 4.4 still lies within the uncertainty range of the accepted value of 15% ± 5 (dilution factor of 0.85 ± 0.5). We compare the average dcp of each site with the local geology, vegetation and climate. Given similar geology and temperature the highest dcp values are found under forest cover; dcp difference is up to 9%. However, the Belgian site, which is also under a forest shows a dcp very close to the dcp found under grassland sites of Southwest France, which proves that other unknown factors may play an important role in dissolution processes. Secondary calcite deposition and redissolution in the soil zone or more likely in the fracture system before reaching the cave itself could also explain the inter-site differences. The IAEA isotopic model (Pearson model adapted for open systems) is in good agreement with the measured activities.

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