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Dating Recent Peat Accumulation in European Ombrotrophic Bogs

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 February 2016

Johannes van der Plicht*
Centre for Isotope Research, University of Groningen, Nijenborgh 4, 9747 AG Groningen, the Netherlands; also Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University, PO Box 9515, 2300 RA Leiden, the Netherlands
Dan Yeloff
Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, Research Group Paleoecology and Landscape Ecology, University of Amsterdam, Science Park 904, 1098 XH Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Marjolein van der Linden
Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, Research Group Paleoecology and Landscape Ecology, University of Amsterdam, Science Park 904, 1098 XH Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Bas van Geel
Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, Research Group Paleoecology and Landscape Ecology, University of Amsterdam, Science Park 904, 1098 XH Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Sally Brain
Centre for Environmental Change and Quaternary Research, School of Natural and Social Sciences, University of Gloucestershire, Francis Close Hall, Swindon Rd, Cheltenham GL50 4AZ, United Kingdom
Frank M Chambers
Centre for Environmental Change and Quaternary Research, School of Natural and Social Sciences, University of Gloucestershire, Francis Close Hall, Swindon Rd, Cheltenham GL50 4AZ, United Kingdom
Julia Webb
Centre for Environmental Change and Quaternary Research, School of Natural and Social Sciences, University of Gloucestershire, Francis Close Hall, Swindon Rd, Cheltenham GL50 4AZ, United Kingdom
Phillip Toms
Centre for Environmental Change and Quaternary Research, School of Natural and Social Sciences, University of Gloucestershire, Francis Close Hall, Swindon Rd, Cheltenham GL50 4AZ, United Kingdom
Corresponding author. Email:


This study compares age estimates of recent peat deposits in 10 European ombrotrophic (precipitation-fed) bogs produced using the 14C bomb peak, 210Pb, 137Cs, spheroidal carbonaceous particles (SCPs), and pollen. At 3 sites, the results of the different dating methods agree well. In 5 cores, there is a clear discrepancy between the 14C bomb peak and 210Pb age estimates. In the upper layers of the profiles, the age estimates of 14C and 210Pb are in agreement. However, with increasing depth, the difference between the age estimates appears to become progressively greater. The evidence from the sites featured in the study suggests that, provided aboveground plant material (seeds, leaves) is selected for dating, the 14C bomb peak is a reliable dating method, and is not significantly affected by the incorporation of old carbon with low 14C content originating from sources including air pollution deposition or methane produced by peat decomposition. 210Pb age estimates that are too old may be explained by the enrichment of 210Pb activity in the surface layers of peat resulting from a hypothesized mechanism where rapidly infilling hollows, rich in binding sites, may scavenge 210Pb associated with dissolved organic matter passing through the hollow, as part of the surface drainage network. Until further research identifies and resolves the cause of the inaccuracy in 210Pb dating, age estimates of peat samples based only on 210Pb should be used with caution.

Paleoclimatology and Paleohydrology
Copyright © 2013 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

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