Radiocarbon determination of fossil and contemporary carbon contribution to aerosol in the Pacific Islands

C. F. Isley*, P. F. Nelson, M. P. Taylor, A. A. Williams, G. E. Jacobsen

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    Combustion emissions are of growing concern across all Pacific Island Countries, which account for >10,000 km2 of the earth's surface area; as for many other small island states globally. Apportioning emissions inputs for Suva, the largest Pacific Island city, will aid in development of emission reduction strategies. Total suspended particulate (TSP) and fine particulate (PM2.5) samples were collected for Suva City, a residential area (Kinoya, TSP) and a mainly ocean-influenced site (Suva Point, TSP) from 2014 to 2015. Percentages of contemporary and fossil carbon were determined by radiocarbon analysis (accelerator mass spectrometry); for non‑carbonate carbon (NCC), elemental carbon (EC) and organic carbon (OC). Source contributions to particulate matter were identified and the accuracy of previous emissions inventory and source apportionment studies was evaluated. Suva Point NCC concentrations (2.7 ± 0.4 μg/m3) were four times lower than for City (13 ± 2 μg/m3 in TSP) and Kinoya (13 ± 1 μg/m3 in TSP); demonstrating the contribution of land-based emissions activities in city and residential areas. In Suva City, total NCC in air was 81% (79%–83%) fossil carbon, from vehicles, shipping, power generation and industry; whilst in the residential area, 48% (46%–50%) of total NCC was contemporary carbon; reflecting the higher incidence of biomass and waste burning and of cooking activities. Secondary organic fossil carbon sources contributed >36% of NCC mass at the city and >29% at Kinoya; with biogenic carbon being Kinoya's most significant source (approx. 30% of NCC mass). These results support the previous source apportionment studies for the city area; yet show that, in line with emissions inventory studies, biomass combustion contributes more PM2.5 mass in residential areas. Hence air quality management strategies need to target open burning activities as well as fossil fuel combustion.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)183-192
    Number of pages10
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


    • Biogenic emissions
    • Biomass burning
    • Carbon emissions
    • Fossil fuel
    • Secondary aerosol


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