Twenty-Five Years of Radiocarbon Dating Soils: Paradigm of Erring and Learning
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CitationScharpenseel, H. W., & Becker-Heidmann, P. (1992). Twenty-five years of radiocarbon dating soils: Paradigm of erring and learning. Radiocarbon, 34(3), 541-549.
DescriptionFrom the 14th International Radiocarbon Conference held in Tucson, AZ, May 20-24, 1991.
AbstractSoil organic matter sequesters close to three times the carbon existing totally in the living biomass and nearly the same for the total carbon in the atmosphere. Models, such as Jenkinson's or Parton's Century model, help to define soil organic matter fractions of different functions, based on residence time/14C age. Rejuvenation of soil carbon was felt to be the principal impediment to absolute soil dating, in addition to the ambiguity of the initiation point of soil formation and soil age. Recent studies, for example, of Becker-Heidmann (1989), indicate that a soil 14C age of >1000 yr cannot have >0.1% rejuvenation in the total soil organic matter compartments/fractions to be possible and sustainable. Always problematic in earlier observations were age vs. depth increases, in 14C profile curves showing an inflection of reduced age in the deepest samples, i.e., from the rim of the organic matter containing epipedon. We attribute this phenomenon, in mollic horizons, to earthworm casts in the terminal part of the escape tube. Becker-Heidmann (1989) has shown, in thin layer soil profile dating, a highly significant correlation between the highest 14C ages and the highest clay content. Thus, optimization of soil dating is, to a lesser degree, related to the applied extracting solvent system than to soil texture fractions. Such observations allow us to mitigate error ranges inherent in dating dynamic soil systems.