The University of Arizona

Temporal and Spatial Variations in Freshwater 14C Reservoir Effects: Lake Mývatn, Northern Iceland

P L Ascough, G T Cook, M J Church, E Dunbar, A Einarsson, T H McGovern, A J Dugmore, S Perdikaris, H Hastie, A Frioriksson, H Gestsdottir

Abstract


Lake Mývatn is an interior highland lake in northern Iceland that forms a unique ecosystem of international scientific importance and is surrounded by a landscape rich in archaeological and paleoenvironmental sites. A significant freshwater reservoir effect (FRE) has been identified in carbon from the lake at some Viking (about AD 870?1000) archaeological sites in the wider region (Mývatnssveit). Previous accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) measurements indicated this FRE was about 1500-1900 14C yr. Here, we present the results of a study using stable isotope and 14C measurements to quantify the Mývatn FRE for both the Viking and modern periods. This work has identified a temporally variable FRE that is greatly in excess of previous assessments. New, paired samples of contemporaneous bone from terrestrial herbivores and omnivores (including humans) from Viking sites demonstrate at least some omnivore diets incorporated sufficient freshwater resources to result in a herbivore-omnivore age offset of up to 400 14C yr. Modern samples of benthic detritus, aquatic plants, zooplankton, invertebrates, and freshwater fish indicate an FRE in excess of 5000 14C yr in some species. Likely geothermal mechanisms for this large FRE are discussed, along with implications for both chronological reconstruction and integrated investigation of stable and radioactive isotopes.

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