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Comparison of Particulate Organic and Dissolved Inorganic Radiocarbon Signatures in the Surface Northeast Pacific Ocean

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 February 2016

Chanda Bertrand*
Department of Earth System Science, University of California Irvine, Irvine, California 92697-3100, USA
Brett Walker
Department of Earth System Science, University of California Irvine, Irvine, California 92697-3100, USA
Sheila Griffin
Department of Earth System Science, University of California Irvine, Irvine, California 92697-3100, USA
E R M Druffel
Department of Earth System Science, University of California Irvine, Irvine, California 92697-3100, USA
1Corresponding author. Email:


It has long been assumed that radiocarbon (Δ14C) content of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) is equal to that of particulate organic carbon (POC) in surface seawater; however, little research has been conducted to explicitly test this assumption. Here, we report Δ14C measurements of surface POC samples and compare them with contemporaneous DIC Δ14C measurements from the northeast Pacific Ocean (Hwang et al. 2004; Druffel et al. 2010). Samples were collected from surface waters at Station M off California between 1995 and 2004. The POC Δ14C values decreased 3.2% per year from 1995 to 2004, similar to the decline observed in the DIC Δ14C values during the same period. Overall, our results show no statistical difference between POC and DIC Δ14C—consistent with the assumption that DIC and POC Δ14C values can generally be considered equivalent. However, significant variability was observed for POC Δ14C values during several fall/summer events, where POC Δ14C signatures were lower than DIC Δ14C values. An evaluation of 2 sample pretreatments also suggests that non-homogenized POC samples deviated less from average POC Δ14C values and more closely matched the DIC Δ14C average for the time series. The presence of seasonal POC/DIC Δ14C disagreements, combined with sample processing effects, suggest that infrequent contributions of allochthonous, older carbon may have originated from deeper in the water column, especially during periods when upwelling in this area was prominent.

Oceanic Carbon Cycle
Copyright © 2013 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

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