Radioactive decay and fossil dating
Plants which grow in the vicinity of active volcanic fumeroles will yield a radiocarbon age which is too old. (1980) measured the radioactivity of modern plants growing near hot springs heated by volcanic rocks in western Germany and demonstrated a deficiency in radiocarbon of up to 1500 years through comparison with modern atmospheric radiocarbon levels.
The volcanic effect has a limited distance however. (1980) found that at 200 m away from the source, plants yielded an age in agreement with that expected.
They suggested that the influence of depleted CO2 declined rapidly with increasing distance from the source.
In the northern hemisphere the amount of artificial carbon in the atmosphere reached a peak in 1963 (in the southern hemisphere around 1965) at about 100% above normal levels.
Since that time the amount has declined owing to exchange and dispersal of C14 into the Earth's carbon cycle system.
The logical conclusion from this was that in order to obtain a modern radiocarbon reference standard, representing the radiocarbon activity of the 'present day', one could not very well use wood which grew in the 1900's since it was affected by this industrial effect.
Thus it was that 1890 wood was used as the modern radiocarbon standard, extrapolated for decay to 1950 AD.Thus, it dilutes the activity of the lake meaning that the radioactivity is depleted in comparison to 14C activity elsewhere.The lake, in this case, has a different radiocarbon reservoir than that of the majority of the radiocarbon in the biosphere and therefore an accurate radiocarbon age requires that a correction be made to account for it.In order to ascertain the ages of samples which were formed in equilibrium with different reservoirs to these materials, it is necessary to provide an age correction.Implicit in the Conventional Radiocarbon Age BP is the fact that it is not adjusted for this correction.A shellfish alive today in a lake within a limestone catchment, for instance, will yield a radiocarbon date which is excessively old.