The worldwide marine radiocarbon reservoir effect: definitions, mechanisms, and prospects

Alves, E. Q., Macario, K., Ascough, P. and Bronk Ramsey, C. (2018) The worldwide marine radiocarbon reservoir effect: definitions, mechanisms, and prospects. Reviews of Geophysics, 56(1), pp. 278-305. (doi: 10.1002/2017RG000588)

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When a carbon reservoir has a lower radiocarbon content than the atmosphere, this is referred to as a reservoir effect. This is expressed as an offset between the radiocarbon ages of samples from the two reservoirs at a single point in time. The marine reservoir effect (MRE) has been a major concern in the radiocarbon community, as it introduces an additional source of error that is often difficult to accurately quantify. For this reason, researchers are often reluctant to date marine material where they have another option. The influence of this phenomenon makes the study of the MRE important for a broad range of applications. The advent of Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) has reduced sample size requirements and increased measurement precision, in turn increasing the number of studies seeking to measure marine samples. These studies rely on overcoming the influence of the MRE on marine radiocarbon dates through the worldwide quantification of the local parameter ΔR, that is, the local variation from the global average MRE. Furthermore, the strong dependence on ocean dynamics makes the MRE a useful indicator for changes in oceanic circulation, carbon exchange between reservoirs, and the fate of atmospheric CO2, all of which impact Earth's climate. This article explores data from the Marine Reservoir Database and reviews the place of natural radiocarbon in oceanic records, focusing on key questions (e.g., changes in ocean dynamics) that have been answered by MRE studies and on their application to different subjects.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The authors thank the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) for financial support.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Ascough, Dr Philippa
Authors: Alves, E. Q., Macario, K., Ascough, P., and Bronk Ramsey, C.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
Journal Name:Reviews of Geophysics
Publisher:American Geophysical Union
ISSN (Online):1944-9208
Published Online:30 March 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 American Geophysical Union
First Published:First published in Reviews of Geophysics 56(1):278-305
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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