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Associated terrestrial and marine fossils in the late-glacial Presumpscot Formation, southern Maine, USA, and the marine reservoir effect on radiocarbon ages

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Woodrow B. Thompson*
Maine Geological Survey, 22 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0022, USA
Carol B. Griggs
Tree-Ring Laboratory, Cornell University, B48 Goldwin Smith Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
Norton G. Miller
Biological Survey, New York State Museum, 3140 Cultural Education Center, Albany, NY 12230, USA
Robert E. Nelson
Department of Geology, Colby College, 5804 Mayflower Hill, Waterville, ME 04901-8858, USA
Thomas K. Weddle
Maine Geological Survey, 22 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0022, USA
Taylor M. Kilian
Department of Geology, Colby College, 5804 Mayflower Hill, Waterville, ME 04901-8858, USA Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA
Corresponding author. Fax: +1 207 287 2353.


Excavations in the late-glacial Presumpscot Formation at Portland, Maine, uncovered tree remains and other terrestrial organics associated with marine invertebrate shells in a landslide deposit. Buds of Populus balsamifera (balsam poplar) occurred with twigs of Picea glauca (white spruce) in the Presumpscot clay. Tree rings in Picea logs indicate that the trees all died during winter dormancy in the same year. Ring widths show patterns of variation indicating responses to environmental changes. Fossil mosses and insects represent a variety of species and wet to dry microsites. The late-glacial environment at the site was similar to that of today's Maine coast. Radiocarbon ages of 14 tree samples are 11,907 ± 31 to 11,650 ± 50 14C yr BP. Wiggle matching of dated tree-ring segments to radiocarbon calibration data sets dates the landslide occurrence at ca. 13,520 + 95/−20 cal yr BP. Ages of shells juxtaposed with the logs are 12,850 ± 65 14C yr BP (Mytilus edulis) and 12,800 ± 55 14C yr BP (Balanus sp.), indicating a marine reservoir age of about 1000 yr. Using this value to correct previously published radiocarbon ages reduces the discrepancy between the Maine deglaciation chronology and the varve-based chronology elsewhere in New England.

Research Article
University of Washington

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