Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-swr86 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-17T07:01:52.010Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Evaluating the Radiocarbon Reservoir Effect in Lake Kutubu, Papua New Guinea

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 July 2018

Larissa Schneider*
Archaeology and Natural History, School of Culture, History and Language College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia
Colin F Pain
MED-Soil Research Group, Departamento de Cristalografía, Mineralogía y Química Agrícola, Facultad de Química (Universidad de Sevilla), Calle Profesor García González, s/n., 41012 Sevilla, Spain
Simon Haberle
Archaeology and Natural History, School of Culture, History and Language College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia
Russell Blong
Risk Frontiers, 100 Christie St, St Leonards, NSW 2065, Australia
Brent V Alloway
School of Environment, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand Centre for Archaeological Science (CAS), School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia
Stewart J Fallon
Radiocarbon Laboratory, Research School of Earth Sciences, The Australian National University
Geoff Hope
Archaeology and Natural History, School of Culture, History and Language College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia
Atun Zawadzki
Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Lucas Heights, NSW 2234, Australia
Henk Heijnis
Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Lucas Heights, NSW 2234, Australia
*Corresponding author. Email:


We examined the radiocarbon (14C) reservoir effect in Lake Kutubu using tephrochronology and terrestrial plant material to deliver a precise age-depth profile and sedimentation rates for this lake. Based on the presence of two tephra horizons (Tibito and Olgaboli), we found a reservoir age offset in sediments of between 1490 and 2280 14C yr using the sediment ages derived from the lead-210 (210Pb) dating method. The live submerged biological samples collected exhibited a higher reservoir age offset than the sediment. This is most likely a result of delayed transport of “bomb” 14C from the atmosphere to aquatic and sedimentary system. The 14C reservoir effect increased with distance from the lake inlet and also decreased with depth. Dissolution of 14C-depleted carbon from surrounding limestone and direct in-wash of old soil or vegetation remnants from the catchment are the most likely causes of the 14C reservoir effect. Based on limestone areas mapped in Papua New Guinea, we indicate lakes which may be subject to a significant 14C reservoir effect. The results of this study demonstrate the magnitude of the 14C reservoir effect in lakes and provide insights to the correct interpretation of past environmental and archaeological events in PNG.

Research Article
© 2018 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Appleby, PG, Oldfield, F. 1978. The calculation of lead-210 dates assuming a constant rate of supply of unsupported 210Pb to the sediment. Catena 5:18.Google Scholar
Bain, JHC, Mackenzie DE, Ryburn. 1975. Geology of the Kubor anticline, Central Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Department of Minerals and Energy. Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics. Bulletin. 155, Canberra ACT.Google Scholar
Bayliss-Smith, T, Golson, J, Hughes, P. 2017. Phase 6: Impact of the sweet potato on swamp landuse, pig rearing and exchange relations. In: Golson J, Denham T, Swadling P, Muke J, editors. Ten Thousand Years of Cultivation at Kuk Swamp in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea (Terra Australis 46). Canberra: ANU Press. p 297323.Google Scholar
Bayly, IAE, Peterson, J, St John, VP. 1970. Notes on Lake Kutubu, Southern Highlands of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Australian Society for Limnology Bulletin 3:4047.Google Scholar
Berg, MSV den, Scheffer, M, Nes, EV, Coops, H. 1999. Dynamics and stability of Chara sp. and Potamogeton pectinatus in a shallow lake changing in eutrophication level. Hydrobiologia 408–409:335342.Google Scholar
Bengtsson, Törneman. 2004. Dissolved organic carbon dynamics in the peat–streamwater interface. Biogeochemistry 70:93116.Google Scholar
Bjork, S, Wohlfarth, B. 2001. 14C chronostratigraphic techniques in paleolimnology. In: Last WM, Smol JP, editors. Tracking Environmental Change Using Lake Sediments. Basin Analysis, Coring and Chronological Techniques, Developments in Palaeoenvironmental Research. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers. p 205245.Google Scholar
Blaauw, M. 2010. Methods and code for ‘classical’ age-modelling of radiocarbon sequences. Quaternary Geochronology 5:512518.Google Scholar
Blaauw, M, Christen, JA. 2011. Flexible paleoclimate age-depth models using an autoregressive gamma process. Bayesian Analysis 6:457474.Google Scholar
Blaauw, M, van Geel, B, Kristen, I, Plessen, B, Lyaruu, A, Engstrom, DR, van der Plicht, J, Verschuren, D. 2011. High-resolution 14C dating of a 25,000-year lake-sediment record from equatorial East Africa. Quaternary Science Reviews 30:30433059.Google Scholar
Blong, R, Kemp, J, Chen, K. 2016. Dating the last major eruption of Long Island, Papua New Guinea: the evidence from Dampier’s 1700 voyage on the Roebuck. Terrae Incognitae 48:139159.Google Scholar
Blong, RJ. 1982. The Time of Darkness: Local Legends and Volcanic Reality in Papua New Guinea. Seattle: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
Blong, RJ, Pain, CF, McKee, CO. 1982. Long Island, Papua New Guinea: aspects of landforms and tephrostratigraphy. Records of the Australian Museum 34:419426.Google Scholar
Blong, RJ, Wagner, T, Golson, J. 2017a. Volcanic ash Tephras at Kuk. In: Golson J, Denham T, Hughes PD, Swadling P, Muke J, editors. Ten Thousand Years of Cultivation at Kuk Swamp in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea (Terra Australis 46). Canberra: ANU Press. p 117131.Google Scholar
Blong, RJ, Fallon, SJ, Wood, R, McKee, CO, Chen, K, Magill, C, Barter, P. 2017b. Significance and timing of the mid-17th century eruption of Long Island, Papua New Guinea. The Holocene. doi: 10.1177/0959683617735589.Google Scholar
Broecker, W, Walton, A. 1959. The geochemistry of C14 in fresh-water systems. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 16:1538.Google Scholar
Brown, CM, Robinson, GP. 1982. Kutubu: Papua New Guinea. (No. SB/54-12), 1:250 000 Geological Series–Explanatory Notes. Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea: Geological Survey of Papua New Guinea, Department of Minerals and Energy.Google Scholar
Chambers, MR. 1987. The freshwater lakes of Papua New Guinea: an inventory and limnological review. Journal of Tropical Ecology 3:123.Google Scholar
Coulter, SE, Denham, TP, Turney, CSM, Hall, VA. 2009. The geochemical characterization and correlation of Late Holocene tephra layers at Ambra Crater and Kuk Swamp, Papua New Guinea. Geological Journal 44:568592.Google Scholar
D’Addario, GW, Dow, DB, Swoboda, R. 1975. Geology of Papua New Guinea, 1:2 500 000. Canberra: Bureau of Mineral Resources.Google Scholar
D’cruz, R. 2008. Lake Kutubu Management Plan. Report prepared for WWF (PNG). WWF Kikori River Programme, Boroko, Papua New Guinea.Google Scholar
Deevey, ES. 1954. The natural C-14 contents of materials from hard-water lakes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 40:285.Google Scholar
Deevey, ES, Stuiver, M. 1964. Distribution of natural isotopes of carbon in Linsley Pond and other New England lakes. Limnological Oceanography 9:111.Google Scholar
Dow, DB. 1977. A Geological Synthesis of Papua New Guinea, Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics no: 201 0084-7089. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. p 41.Google Scholar
Dugmore, AJ, Cook, GT, Shore, JS, Newton, AJ, Edwards, KJ, Larsen, G. 2006. Radiocarbon dating tephra layers in Britain and Iceland. Radiocarbon 37(2):379388.Google Scholar
Fallon, SJ, Fifield, LK, Chappell, JM. 2010. The next chapter in radiocarbon dating at the Australian National University: Status report on the single stage AMS. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 268:898901. doi: 10.1016/j.nimb.2009.10.059.Google Scholar
Flenley, J. 1967. The Present and Former Vegetation of the Wabag Region of New Guinea. Canberra: Australian National University.Google Scholar
Fletcher, W, Zielhofer, C, Mischke, S, Bryant, C, Xu, X, Fink, D. 2017. AMS radiocarbon dating of pollen concentrates in a karstic lake system. Quaternary Geochronology. doi: 10.1016/j.quageo.2017.02.006.Google Scholar
Ford, D, Williams, PD. 2007. Karst Hydrogeology and Geomorphology. Hoboken (NJ): Wiley.Google Scholar
Garrett-Jones, SE. 1979. Evidence for Changes in Holocene Vegetation and Lake Sedimentation in the Markham Valley, Papua New Guinea [PhD thesis]. Canberra: Australian National University. p 400.Google Scholar
Gillieson, D, Mountain, M-J. 1983. Environmental history of Nombe Rockshelter, Papua New Guinea Highlands. Archaeology Oceanography 18:5362.Google Scholar
Grimm, EC, Maher, LJ Jr, Nelson, DM. 2009. The magnitude of error in conventional bulk-sediment radiocarbon dates from central North America. Quaternary Research 72:301308. doi: 10.1016/j.yqres.2009.05.006.Google Scholar
Haberle, SG. 1998. Dating the evidence for agricultural change in the highlands of New Guinea: The last 2000 years. Australian Archaeology 113.Google Scholar
Haberle, SG. 1998. Late Quaternary vegetation change in the Tari Basin, Papua New Guinea. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 37:124.Google Scholar
Harrison, J, Heijnis, H, Caprarelli, G. 2003. Historical pollution variability from abandoned mine sites, Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, New South Wales, Australia. Environ. Geol. 43:680687.Google Scholar
Hall, BL, Henderson, GM. 2001. Use of uranium–thorium dating to determine past 14C reservoir effects in lakes: examples from Antarctica. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 193:565577. doi: 10.1016/S0012-821X(01)00524-6.Google Scholar
Harle, KJ, Kershaw, AP, Heijnis, H. 1999. The contributions of uranium/thorium and marine palynology to the dating of the Lake Wangoom pollen record, western plains of Victoria, Australia. Quaternary International 57:2534.Google Scholar
Hendy, CH, Hall, BL. 2006. The radiocarbon reservoir effect in proglacial lakes: Examples from Antarctica. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 241:413421.Google Scholar
Hogg, AG, Hua, Q, Blackwell, PG, Niu, M, Buck, CE, Guilderson, TP, Heaton, TJ, Palmer, JG, Reimer, PJ, Reimer, RW, Turney, CSM, Zimmerman, SRH. 2013. SHCal13 Southern Hemisphere calibration, 0–50,000 years cal BP. Radiocarbon 55(4):18891903.Google Scholar
Karlin, RE, Abella, SEB. 1996. A history of Pacific Northwest earthquakes recorded in Holocene sediments from Lake Washington. Journal of Geophysical Research 101:61376150. doi: 10.1029/95JB01626.Google Scholar
Kilian, MR, van Gee, B, van der Plicht, J. 2000. 14C AMS wiggle matching of raised bog deposits and models of peat accumulation. Quaternary Science Reviews 19:10111033.Google Scholar
Last, WM, Smol, JP. editors. 2002. Tracking Environmental Change Using Lake Sediments: Volume 1: Basin Analysis, Coring, and Chronological Techniques. Dordrecht; Boston: Springer.Google Scholar
McCormac, FG, Hogg, AG, Blackwell, PG, Buck, CE, Higham, TFG, Reimer, PJ. 2004. ShCal04 Southern Hemisphere calibration, 0–11.0 cal kyr BP. Radiocarbon 46(3):10871092.Google Scholar
McKee, CO, Baillie, MG, Reimer, PJ. 2015. A revised age of AD 667–699 for the latest major eruption at Rabaul. Bulletin of Volcanology 77:65. Scholar
Mischke, S, Weynell, M, Zhang, C, Wiechert, U. 2013. Spatial variability of 14C reservoir effects in Tibetan Plateau lakes. Quaternary International 313-314:147155. doi: 10.1016/j.quaint.2013.01.030.Google Scholar
Ohle, W. 1952. Die hypolimnische Kohlendioxyd-Akkumulation als produktionsbiologischer Indikator. Archiv für Hydrobiologie 46:153285.Google Scholar
Oldfield, F. 1977. Lakes and their drainage basins as units of sediment-based ecological study. Progress in Physical Geography 1:460504.Google Scholar
Oldfield, F, Appleby, PG, Thompson, R. 1980. Palaeoecological studies of Lakes in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea: I. The Chronology of Sedimentation. Journal of Ecology 68:457477. doi: 10.2307/2259416.Google Scholar
Olsson, IU. 1986. Radiometric dating. In: Berglund BE, editor. Handbook of Holocene Palaeoecology and Palaeohydrology. Chichester (UK): Wiley. p 273312.Google Scholar
Osborne, PL. 2012. Lakes, energy flow and biogeochemical cycling. In: Tropical Ecosystems and Ecological Concepts. Cambridge University Press. p 142203.Google Scholar
Osborne, PL, Totome, RG. 1992. Influences of oligomixis on the water and sediment chemistry of Lake Kutubu, Papua New Guinea. Archiv für Hydrobiologie 124:427449.Google Scholar
Petr, T. 1985. Limnology of the Purari Basin. Part 1. The catchment above the delta. In: Junk W, editor. The Purari–Tropical Environment of a High Rainfall River Basin. The Hague, Netherlands. p 141177.Google Scholar
R Development Core Team. 2017. R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. ISBN 3-900051-07-0. URL Scholar
Reimer, PJ, Bard, E, Bayliss, A, Beck, JW, Blackwell, PG, Ramsey, CB, Buck, CE, Cheng, H, Edwards, RL, Friedrich, M, Grootes, PM, Guilderson, TP, Haflidason, H, Hajdas, I, Hatté, C, Heaton, TJ, Hoffmann, DL, Hogg, AG, Hughen, KA, Kaiser, KF, Kromer, B, Manning, SW, Niu, M, Reimer, RW, Richards, DA, Scott, EM, Southon, JR, Staff, RA, Turney, CSM, van der Plicht, J. 2013. IntCal13 and Marine13 radiocarbon age calibration curves 0–50,000 years cal BP. Radiocarbon 55(4):18691887.Google Scholar
Santos, GM, Southon, JR, Griffin, S, Beaupre, SR, Druffel, ERM. 2007. Ultra small-mass AMS 14C sample preparation and analyses at KCCAMS/UCI facility. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 259:293302. doi: 10.1016/j.nimb.2007.01.172.Google Scholar
Schneider, L, Alloway, BV, Blong, RJ, Hope, GS, Fallon, SJ, Pain, CF, Maher, WA, Haberle, SG. 2017. Stratigraphy, age and correlation of two widespread Late Holocene tephras preserved within Lake Kutubu, Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea. Journal of Quaternary Science 32:782794. doi: 10.1002/jqs.2959.Google Scholar
Schneider, L, Haberle, SG, Maher, WA, Krikowa, F, Zawadzki, A, Heijnis, H. 2016. History of human impact on Lake Kutubu, Papua New Guinea: The geochemical signatures of oil and gas mining activities in sediments. Chemosphere 148:369379. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2015.12.086.Google Scholar
Snyder, JA, Miller, GH, Werner, A, Jull, AJT, Stafford, TW. 1994. AMS-radiocarbon dating of organic-poor lake sediment, an example from Linnévatnet, Spitsbergen, Svalbard. The Holocene 4:413421.Google Scholar
Soulet, G. 2015. Methods and codes for reservoir–atmosphere 14C age offset calculations. Quaternary Geochronology 29:97103. doi: 10.1016/j.quageo.2015.05.023.Google Scholar
Srdoč, D. 1986. The response of hydrological systems to the variations of the 14C activity of the atmosphere. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 17:545549.Google Scholar
Sutton, A, Mountain, M-J, Aplin, K, Bulmer, S, Denham, T. 2009. Archaeozoological records for the highlands of New Guinea: a review of current evidence. Australian Archaeology 69:4158. doi: 10.1080/03122417.2009.11681900.Google Scholar
Thorley, A. 1981. Pollen analytical evidence relating to the vegetation history of the chalk. Journal of Biogeography 8:93106. doi: 10.2307/2844552.Google Scholar
Walker, D. 1972. Vegetation of the Lake Ipea region, New Guinea highlands: II. Kayamanda Swamp. Journal of Ecology 60:479504. doi: 10.2307/2258358.Google Scholar
Walker, D, Flenley, JR. 1979. Late Quaternary vegetational History of the Enga province of upland Papua New Guinea. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B. Biol. Sci 286:265344.Google Scholar
Wang, Y, Yang, H. 2004. Middle Permian palaeobiogeography study in East Kunlun, Anyêmaqên and Bayan Har. Science in China Series D: Earth Sciences 47:11201126.Google Scholar
Williams, PW, McDougall, I, Powell, JM. 1972. Aspects of the quaternary geology of the Tari‐Koroba area, Papua. J. Geol. Soc. Aust 18:333347. doi: 10.1080/00167617208728772.Google Scholar
Wohlfarth, B, Skog, G, Possnert, G, Holmquist, B. 1998. Pitfalls in the AMS radiocarbon-dating of terrestrial macrofossils. Journal of Quaternary Science 13:137145.Google Scholar
WWF. 2008. Ecological and Geochemical Investigations for Lake Kutubu and Surrounding Wetlands. Report No. Rev 3, 22 August 2008.Google Scholar
Yang, S, Yim, WW-S, Huang, G. 2008. Geochemical composition of inner shelf Quaternary sediments in the northern South China Sea with implications for provenance discrimination and paleoenvironmental reconstruction. Global and Planetary Change 60:207221. doi: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2007.02.005.Google Scholar
Yu, SY, Shen, J, Coleman, SM. 2007. Modeling the radiocarbon reservoir effect in lacustrine systems. Radiocarbon 49(3):12411254.Google Scholar
Supplementary material: File

Schneider et al. supplementary material

Schneider et al. supplementary material 1

Download Schneider et al. supplementary material(File)
File 21 KB