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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Stable and radioactive carbon isotope partitioning in soils and saturated systems: a reactive transport modeling benchmark study


This benchmark provides the first rigorous test of a three-isotope system [12C, 13C, and 14C] subject to the combined effects of radioactive decay and both stable equilibrium and kinetic fractionation. We present a series of problems building in complexity based on the cycling of carbon in both organic and inorganic forms. The key components implement (1) equilibrium fractionation between multiple coexisting carbon species as a function of pH, (2) radioactive decay of radiocarbon with associated mass-dependent speciation demonstrating appropriate correction of the Δ14C value in agreement with reporting convention, and (3) kinetic stable isotope fractionation due to the oxidation of organic carbon to inorganic forms as a function of time and space in an open, through-flowing system. Participating RTM codes are CrunchTope, ToughReact, Hytec, and The Geochemist’s Workbench. Across all problem levels, simulation results from all RTMs demonstrate good agreement.

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