Multi-Substrate Radiocarbon Data Constrain Detrital and Reservoir Effects in Holocene Sediments of the Great Salt Lake, Utah

Gabriel J. Bowen, Kristine E. Nielson, Timothy I. Eglinton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The radiocarbon (14C) content of simultaneously deposited substrates in lacustrine archives may differ due to reservoir and detrital effects, complicating the development of age models and interpretation of proxy records. Multi-substrate 14C studies quantifying these effects remain rare, however, particularly for large, terminal lake systems, which are excellent recorders of regional hydroclimate change. We report 14C ages of carbonates, brine shrimp cysts, algal mat biomass, total organic carbon (TOC), terrestrial macrofossils, and n-alkane biomarkers from Holocene sediments of the Great Salt Lake (GSL), Utah. 14C ages for co-deposited aquatic organic substrates are generally consistent, with small offsets that may reflect variable terrestrial organic matter inputs to the system. Carbonates and long-chain n-alkanes derived from vascular plants, however, are ∼1000-4000 14C years older than other substrates, reflecting deposition of pre-aged detrital materials. All lacustrine substrates are 14C-depleted compared to terrestrial macrofossils, suggesting that the reservoir age of the GSL was > 1200 years throughout most of the Holocene, far greater than the modern reservoir age of the lake (∼300 years). These results suggest good potential for multi-substrate paleoenvironmental reconstruction from Holocene GSL sediments but point to limitations including reservoir-induced uncertainty in 14C chronologies and attenuation and time-shifting of some proxy signals due to detrital effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)905-926
Number of pages22
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona.

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • chronology
  • paleolakes
  • sediments

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