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Radiocarbon Anomalies from Old CO2 in the Soil and Canopy Air

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2016

Steven Soter*
Environmental Studies Program, New York University, and Department of Astrophysics, American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York, USA. Email:
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The canopies of forests and cultivated fields can retard the ventilation of CO2 respired from the soil. The plants in dense canopies can then acquire a small fraction of their carbon by recycling some of the respired CO2. Furthermore, some plants can assimilate a small fraction of their carbon by uptake of CO2 in the soil via their roots. In tectonically active areas, the diffuse flux of CO2 from geological sources may be comparable to that from normal soil respiration. In such areas, both the canopy and root uptake effects may allow plants to acquire a measurable fraction of their carbon from geological sources. Because this “old” carbon lacks radiocarbon, its assimilation would increase the apparent 14C ages of the plants. These effects may account for some of the discrepancies between archaeological and 14C dates.

Soils and Sediments
Copyright © 2011 The Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 


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