Evidence for anthropogenic 14C-enrichment in estuarine waters adjacent to the North Sea

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Abstract

[1] The isotopic composition (δ13C and Δ14C) of high molecular weight dissolved organic carbon (HMW DOC) was studied in the Tyne and Tweed estuaries, NE England. Despite significant removal of terrigenous HMW DOC in the low salinity regions (S < 15), Δ14C remained modern with little variation around 115‰. This lack of apparent age discrimination was attributed to either non-oxidative removal or the absence of a significant proportion of old refractory C in the HMW DOC pool. At S > 15, we observed seaward increases in δ13C and Δ14C. With no documented local 14C inputs, we attributed non-bomb related 14C-enrichment at S > 15 to a possible ‘lingering effect’ of distal anthropogenic sources in near-coastal North Sea HMW DOC. Given the global distribution of potential sources, we propose that anthropogenic 14C should be considered in assigning ages of DOC pools in near-coastal waters and suggest its possible use as a tracer for DOC transformations.

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