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Areas affected by routine radiocarbon (14C) discharges from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) and accidental releases in March 2011 were investigated by analysis of cores from Japanese cypress and cedar trees growing at sites 9 and 24 km northwest of the plant. 14C concentrations in tree rings from 2008–2014 (before and after the accident) were determined by accelerator mass spectrometry, with 14C activities in the range 231–256 Bq kg−1 C. Activities during the period 2012–2014, after FDNPP shutdown, represent background levels, while the significantly higher levels recorded during 2008–2010, before the accident, indicate uptake of 14C from routine FDNPP operations. The mean excess 14C activity for the pre-accident period at the sites 9 and 24 km northwest of the plant were 21 and 12 Bq kg−1 C, respectively, indicating that the area of influence during routine FDNPP operations extended at least 24 km northwest. The mean excess tree-ring 14C activities in 2011 were 10 and 5.8 Bq kg−1 C at 9 and 24 km northwest, respectively, documenting possible impact of the FDNPP accident on 14C levels in trees.
The jungles of Linyun and Longlin Autonomous Prefecture, located in the heart of the southwestern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of China, are home to the oldest tea trees (Camellia sinensis) in the world. In the absence of regular annual rings, radiocarbon (14C) dating is one of the most powerful tools that can assist in the determination of the ages and growth rates of these plants. In this work, cores were extracted from large ancient tea trees in a central Longlin rain forest; extraction of carbon was performed with an automated sample preparation system. The 14C levels in the tree cores were measured using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) at the University of Tsukuba. These measurements indicated that contrary to conventional views, the ages of trees in these forests range up to ~700 years, and the growth rate of this species is notably slow, exhibiting a long-term radial growth rate of 0.039±0.006 cm/yr. It was demonstrated that 14C analyses provide accurate determination of ages and growth rates for subtropical wild tea trees.
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