Terrestrial plant remains in the sediments of lakes from semi-arid and arid regions are rare and therefore the establishment of a sediment chronology depends on accurate assessment of the reservoir effect of the lake water. In a study of Genggahai Lake in the Gonghe Basin, northeastern Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, we used accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon (AMS 14C) dating to determine the age of (1) dissolved inorganic carbon in the water (DICLW), (2) macrophyte remains in the uppermost samples of core sediments, (3) living P. pectinatus in the lake, and (4) dissolved inorganic carbon of spring water in the catchment. The results show that the ages of the DICLW (910 14C yr BP on average) were much younger than the ages of the groundwater (6330 14C yr BP on average), which may result mainly from CO2 exchange between the lake water and the atmosphere. In addition, the 14C ages of DICLW and macrophyte remains in the uppermost core sediments varied from site to site within the lake, which we ascribe to the different photosynthesis rates of Chara spp. and vascular plants. The higher photosynthesis rate of Chara spp. decreases lake-water pCO2, which leads to more atmospheric CO2 being absorbed by the lake water, and thereby greatly reducing the age of carbon species in areas dominated by Chara spp. Although Genggahai Lake is well mixed, the differences between the apparent ages of the lake water are significantly modulated by the photosynthesis intensity of submerged plants.