This article presents a case study of Lower Lough Erne, a humic, alkaline lake in northwest Ireland, and uses the radiocarbon method to determine the source and age of carbon to establish whether terrestrial carbon is utilized by heterotrophic organisms or buried in sediment. Stepped combustion was used to estimate the degree of the burial of terrestrial carbon in surface sediment. ∆14C, δ13C, and δ15N values were measured for phytoplankton, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), dissolved organic carbon (DOC), and particulate organic carbon (POC). ∆14C values were used to indicate the presence of different sources of carbon, including bedrock-derived inorganic carbon, “modern,” “recent,” “subsurface,” and “subfossil” terrestrial carbon in the lake. The use of 14C in conjunction with novel methods (e.g. stepped combustion) allows the determination of the pathway of terrestrial carbon in the system, which has implications for regional and global carbon cycling.
- Stable isotopes