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Radiocarbon Age of Soil Organic Matter Fractions Buried by Tephra in Alaska

  • Alexander Cherkinsky (a1) and Kristi Wallace (a2)

Radiocarbon ages were determined on different fractions extracted from buried paleosols in south-central Alaska as an experiment to establish best practices for analysis of low-organic-matter paleosols. Seven samples were collected from directly beneath tephra deposits to determine the eruption frequency of Mount Spurr Volcano, Alaska. Soil development near the volcano is poor due to the high-latitude climate and frequent burial of soil surfaces by tephra. Contamination of soils by local wind-blown material is a concern. The humic acid 14C ages are consistently younger than both the bulk soil and residue after extraction ages. The difference in ages between the humic acid extract and bulk soil range from 60–1130 14C yr BP and 180–4110 14C yr BP, respectively, for residue. Previous observations from dating different soil fractions show that residue ages are typically younger than humic acid extracts presumably because they contain a fraction of younger plant material including roots. We attribute the older ages to contamination by old carbon from eolian charcoal particles. This study supports the use of accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C dating of the humic acid fraction in order to estimate the age of soil that presumably marks the age of burial and avoids suspected contamination by old carbon.

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Selected Papers from the 2015 Radiocarbon Conference, Dakar, Senegal, 16–20 November 2015

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