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Variability in Radiocarbon Ages of Individual Organic Compounds from Marine Sediments

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Science  08 Aug 1997:
Vol. 277, Issue 5327, pp. 796-799
DOI: 10.1126/science.277.5327.796

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Abstract

Organic carbon (OC) from multiple sources can be delivered contemporaneously to aquatic sediments. The influence of different OC inputs on carbon-14–based sediment chronologies is illustrated in the carbon-14 ages of purified, source-specific (biomarker) organic compounds from near-surface sediments underlying two contrasting marine systems, the Black Sea and the Arabian Sea. In the Black Sea, isotopic heterogeneity of n-alkanes indicated that OC was contributed from both fossil and contemporary sources. Compounds reflecting different source inputs to the Arabian Sea exhibit a 10,000-year range in conventional carbon-14 ages. Radiocarbon measurements of biomarkers of marine photoautotrophy enable sediment chronologies to be constructed independent of detrital OC influences.

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