The Effect of Different Acid Treatments on the Radiocarbon Age of Sedimentary Organic Matter

TitleThe Effect of Different Acid Treatments on the Radiocarbon Age of Sedimentary Organic Matter
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsBatista, F, McNichol, AP, Gerlach, DS
Conference NameEOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union
Date PublishedJanuary 2001
PublisherAmerican Geophysical Union, 2000 Florida Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20009 USA, []
KeywordsA, Atlantic, Acidification, Brackish, Brackishwater environment, carbon cycling, Chronostratigraphy, Estuarine sedimentation, organic carbon, organic matter, Palaeoceanography, Radioactivity and radioisotopes, Radiocarbon dating, Sediment chemistry, Stable isotopes

To date the bulk organic carbon in marine sediments it is necessary to first remove any inorganic carbon present by acidification. We tested three different acid treatments to see how the different methods affected the stable and radio-carbon isotopic values of the remaining organic matter. The standard NOSAMS method is to react the sediment with repeated aliquots of1.2N HCl until no visible dissolution reaction is present. The remaining sediment is then rinsed with distilled water. This method leaves a carbonate-free sediment that is easy to combust but suffers from the possible removal of acid-soluble organic matter. We compared this method to two methods that do not require rinsing of the sediments after acid treatment--a vapor phase acidification method using concentrated HCl (Hedges and Stern, 1984) and an in situ acidification with sulfurous acid (Verardo et al., 1990). Scaling these methods up to deal with the amount of sediment required for a radiocarbon date can present challenges that are not evident when dealing with the small quantities required for a percent organic carbon measurement. Vapor phase acidification of high carbonate sediments leaves hygroscopic salts that can impede sample combustion. Sulfurous acid is a weak acid and it is very difficult to determine when all the carbonate has been removed from a sediment sample. We tested sediments from 6 locations in (or near) the Atlantic Ocean that represented riverine, estuarine, and marine environments as well as a range of both organic and inorganic concentrations. We will present the isotopic results for these sediments and evaluate what is the most appropriate method to use. Hedges J.I. and J.H. Stern (1984) Limnol. Oceanogr. 29, 657-663. Verardo D.J., P.N. Froelich and A. McIntyre (1990) Deep-Sea Res. 37, 157-165.