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Marine Reservoir Variation in the Bismarck Region: An Evaluation of Spatial and Temporal Change in ∆R and R over the Last 3000 Years

Fiona Petchey, Sean Ulm


Interactions between islands, ocean currents, and winds cause large-scale eddies and upwelling in the lee of islands that can result in spatial variation in the marine radiocarbon reservoir. For waters around New Ireland and the Bismarck Sea, ∆R values ranging from 365 to –320 14C yr have been reported (Kirch 2001; Petchey et al. 2004). Petchey et al. (2004) proposed that some of this variation was caused by seasonal reversals in the South Equatorial Current and North Equatorial Counter Current system, combined with Ekman upwelling from the Equator. McGregor et al. (2008) suggested additional complexity within this region caused by a change in the reservoir value over time in response to changing climatic conditions. We present a series of 14 new and extant published ∆R and R values on historic shells, combined with 8 values from archaeological terrestrial/marine pairs and U-Th dated coral, that support observations of localized variability caused by a complex interplay between seasonal currents, riverine input, and ocean eddies. On the basis of these values and oceanographic data, we divide the Bismarck Sea surface marine 14C reservoir into 6 tentative subregions. In particular, our results support significant variation within channels at the southwest and southeast ends of New Britain and towards the equatorial boundary of the sea. Our results indicate that within the Bismarck Sea geographical variation appears to be more extreme than temporal over the last 3000 yr.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.v54i1.13050


∆R, Bismarck Sea, Marine Reservoir variation

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