Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 121–137 | Cite as

Evidence that excess 210Pb flux varies with sediment accumulation rate and implications for dating recent sediments

  • José-María Abril
  • Gregg J. Brunskill
Original paper


Most 210Pb dating models assume that atmospheric flux of excess 210Pb (210Pbexc) to the sediment–water interface remains constant over time. We revisited this assumption using statistical analysis of a database of laminated sediments and evaluated the implications for radiometric dating of recent deposits. A bibliographic survey enabled us to create a database with 10 annually laminated sediment cores from a variety of aquatic systems. The database has records of 210Pbexc flux, initial 210Pbexc activity, and sediment accumulation rate (SAR). 210Pbexc flux to sediments varied with time, and 1/3 of the data had relative deviations from the mean value >25 %. There was no statistically significant correlation between activities at the core top and SAR, whereas a statistically significant (p < 0.01) linear regression between 210Pbexc flux and SAR was found for nine of the ten cores. Thus, in most of the studied aquatic systems, 210Pbexc flux to the sediment was governed primarily by flux of matter, rather than by direct atmospheric 210Pbexc deposition. Errors in chronology and SAR, attributable to varying 210Pbexc flux and estimated by the constant rate of supply (CRS) model, were evaluated from its analytical solutions, and tested against SAR values from this database that were derived independently from varves. We identified several constraints for general application of the CRS model, which must be taken into account to avoid its misuse.


Constant rate of 210Pb supply model Radiometric sediment chronology Sediment accumulation rate Time-dependent fluxes 



This work was funded partially by the FIS2012-31853 Project. We sincerely acknowledge the excellent work carried out by the authors of the papers from which we constructed the database used in this study.

Supplementary material

10933_2014_9782_MOESM1_ESM.doc (144 kb)
Appendix A Data from cores C1 to C9 (DOC 143 kb)
10933_2014_9782_MOESM2_ESM.doc (44 kb)
Appendix B Data from core C10 (DOC 43 kb)
10933_2014_9782_MOESM3_ESM.doc (30 kb)
Appendix C Supplementary statistical analysis of the dataset with laminated sediments (in ESM Appendix A)(DOC 30 kb)
10933_2014_9782_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (106 kb)
Fig. A-1 Initial 210Pbexc activity versus SAR for cores C1 to C9 (Table 1 and ESM Appendix). Trend lines from the BCES estimator (in boxes, “a” is the slope and R2 the coefficient of determination; N.S means not statistically significant, and * a confidence level >95 %) (PDF 105 kb)
10933_2014_9782_MOESM5_ESM.pdf (87 kb)
Fig. A-2 Frequency distribution for normalized (to the arithmetic mean of each core) initial activities, 210Pbexc fluxes and SAR (all data from cores C1 to C9, Table 1 and ESM Appendix). The continuous line plots the normal distribution for the sake of comparison. Normality tests are reported in ESM Appendix C (PDF 87 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Física Aplicada IUniversidad de SevillaSevilleSpain
  2. 2.Alligator CreekAustralia

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