Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Temporal and spatial variations in freshwater 14C reservoir effects : Lake Mývatn, northern Iceland.

By P. L. Ascough, G. T. Cook, M. J. Church, E. Dunbar, A. Einarsson, T. H. McGovern, A. J. Dugmore, S. Perdikaris, H. Hastie, A. Friðriksson and H. Gestsdóttir


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 palaeoenvironmental sites. A significant Freshwater 14C Reservoir Effect (FRE) has been identified in carbon from the lake at some Norse (c.870-1000 AD) archaeological sites in the wider region (Mývatnssveit). Previous AMS measurements indicated this FRE was ~1500-1900 14C years. Here we present the results of a study using stable isotope and 14C measurements to quantify the Mývatn FRE for both the Norse 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 Norse sites demonstrate at least some omnivore diets incorporated sufficient freshwater resources to result in a herbivore-omnivore age offset of up to 400 14C yrs. Modern samples of benthic detritus, aquatic plants, zooplankton, invertebrates and freshwater fish indicate an FRE in excess of 5000 14C yrs 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

Topics: Radiocarbon, Freshwater reservoir effect, Iceland, Archaeology.
Publisher: University of Arizona
Year: 2010
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (2001). A freshwater diet-derived 14C reservoir effect at the Stone Age sites in the Iron Gates Gorge. Radiocarbon 43(2A):453–60.
  2. (2002). Atmospheric CO2 as a global climate change driver influencing plant-animal interactions.
  3. (1997). C4 photosynthesis, atmospheric CO2 and climate.
  4. (2000). Chronology of late Holocene climatic events in the northern North Atlantic based on AMS 14C dates and tephra markers from the volcano Hekla, Iceland.
  5. (2006). Coastal connections, local fishing and sustainable egg harvesting: patterns of Viking Age inland wild resource use in Mývatn district, northern Iceland.
  6. (2007). Environmental impacts of the Norse settlement: palaeoenvironmental data from Mývatnssveit, northern Iceland.
  7. (2006). Implications of a freshwater radiocarbon reservoir correction for the timing of late Holocene settlement of the Elk Hills, Kern County,
  8. (1978). Influence of diet on the distribution of carbon isotopes in animals. doi
  9. (2004). Lake Mývatn and the River Laxá: an introduction.
  10. (2004). Landscapes circum-Landnám: Viking settlement in the North Atlantic and its human and ecological consequences - a major new research programme.
  11. (2007). Landscapes of settlement in northern Iceland: historical ecology of human impact and climate fluctuation on the millennial scale.
  12. (2004). Long-term changes in benthic Cladocera populations in Lake Mývatn,
  13. (2004). Marine reservoir age variability and water mass distribution in the Iceland Sea. Quaternary Science Reviews 23(20–22):2247–68.
  14. (1975). Natural 15N abundance in soil, leaves and grains as influenced by longterm addition of fertiliser N at several rates.
  15. (1971). New method of collagen extraction for radiocarbon dating.
  16. (1999). Nitrogen stable isotopic composition of leaves and soil: tropical versus temperate forests.
  17. (2007). Radiocarbon observations in atmospheric CO2: determining fossil fuel CO2 over Europe using Jungfraujoch observations as background. Science of The Total Environment 391(2–3):211–6.
  18. (2000). Radiocarbon—a unique Temporal, Spatial Variations in Freshwater 14C Reservoir Effects 1112 tracer of global carbon cycle dynamics.
  19. (1998). Reservoir effect and apparent 14C-ages.
  20. (1997). Twenty years of atmospheric 14CO2 observations at Schauinsland Station,

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.