Meteoric 7Be and 10Be as Process Tracers in the Environment

  • James M. KasteEmail author
  • Mark Baskaran
Part of the Advances in Isotope Geochemistry book series (ADISOTOPE)


7Be (T1/2 = 53 days) and 10Be (T1/2 = 1.4 Ma) form via natural cosmogenic reactions in the atmosphere and are delivered to Earth’s surface by wet and dry deposition. The distinct source term and near-constant fallout of these radionuclides onto soils, vegetation, waters, ice, and sediments makes them valuable tracers of a wide range of environmental processes operating over timescales from weeks to millions of years. Beryllium tends to form strong bonds with oxygen atoms, so 7Be and 10Be adsorb rapidly to organic and inorganic solid phases in the terrestrial and marine environment. Thus, cosmogenic isotopes of beryllium can be used to quantify surface age, sediment source, mixing rates, and particle residence and transit times in soils, streams, lakes, and the oceans. A number of caveats exist, however, for the general application of these radionuclides as tracers in the environment, as steady deposition and geochemical immobility are not guaranteed in all systems. Here we synthesize and review scientific literature documenting the deposition and behavior of these nuclides at the Earth’s surface, focusing on current and potential applications for Earth scientists working to quantify terrestrial and marine processes.


Suspended Particulate Matter Depositional Flux Authigenic Mineral 10Be Concentration Rock Varnish 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Jane Willenbring for a thoughtful and thorough review of the earlier version of this manuscript.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeologyThe College of William & MaryWilliamsburgUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeologyWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA

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