240+239Pu depositional signatures as a viable geochronological tool in the Amazon Basin

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Sanders, LM, Taffs, KH, Stokes, D, Enrich-Prast, A & Sanders, CJ 2017, '240+239Pu depositional signatures as a viable geochronological tool in the Amazon Basin', Geochronometria, vol. 44, pp. 142-149.

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Anthropogenic radionuclide signatures associated with nuclear testing are increasingly utilized in environmental science to explore recent sedimentation. In this study, we assess the suitability of Pu radioisotope analysis in floodplain lake environments in the Amazon Basin to form geochronologies during the 20th century. The 240Pu + 239Pu (240+239Pu) signatures in six sediment cores indicate sediment accumulation rates in the floodplain lakes of the major rivers; Amazon (2.3 mm year-1), Tapajos (10.2 and 2.4 mm year-1) and Madeira (3.4, 4.2 and 6.2 mm year-1). The results from this study show that 240+239Pu fallout activities, and the well documented (240Pu/239Pu) atomic ratios of the above ground nuclear tests which began in the 1950’s, are sufficient and well preserved in Amazon floodplain lake sediments to infer chronologies. Lead-210 dating analyses in the same sediment cores produced comparable sediment accumulation rates at three of the six sites. The differences between dating methods may be attributed to the different time scale these dating methods represent and/or in the solubility between Pb and Pu along the sediment column. The geochronologies derived from the 240+239Pu and 210Pb dating methods outlined in this work are of interest to identify the effects of changing sediment accumulation rates during the previous century as a result of development, including deforestation, along the Amazon Basin which increased towards the middle of the 20th century. This study shows that Pu dating provides a viable alternative geochronology tool for recent sediment accumulation (previous ~60 years) along the Amazon Basin.

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