Using radiocarbon and stable isotopes to identify sediment carbon sources in an alkaline, humic lake.

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


We present a pilot study that uses the radiocarbon (∆14C) method to determine the source of carbon buried in the surface sediment of Lough Erne, a humic, alkaline lake in northwest Ireland. ∆14C, δ13C and δ15N values were measured from phytoplankton, dissolved inorganic, dissolved organic and particulate organic carbon. A novel radiocarbon method, Stepped Combustion1 was used to estimate the degree of the burial of terrestrial carbon in surface sediment. The ∆14C values of the low temperature fractions were comparable to algal ∆14C, while the high temperature fractions were 14C-depleted (older than bulk sediment). The ∆14C end-member model indicated that ~64% of carbon in surface sediment was derived from detrital terrestrial carbon. The use of ∆14C in conjunction with stepped combustion allows the quantification of the pathways of terrestrial carbon in the system, which has implications for regional and global carbon burial.
1McGeehin, J., Burr, G.S., Jull, A.J.T., Reines, D., Gosse, J., Davis, P.T., Muhs, D., and Southon, J.R., 2001, Stepped-combustion C-14 dating of sediment: A comparison with established techniques: Radiocarbon, v. 43, p. 255-261.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2015
EventConference of Irish Geographers 2015 - QUB, Belfast , United Kingdom
Duration: 21 May 201524 May 2015


ConferenceConference of Irish Geographers 2015
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • freshwater
  • carbon-cycling
  • radiocarbon
  • limnology
  • stable isotopes


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