These roughly constant levels of radiocarbon from the atmosphere are then incorporated into all living organisms.Once the organisms die, the radioactive isotope decays at a known rate, so by measuring the radiocarbon levels remaining in samples today scientists can work out how old things are.
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However, the complication in the calculation is that the initial amounts of radiocarbon in the environment, which are in turn incorporated into growing organisms, vary slightly from year to year and between different parts of the global carbon cycle.
The radiocarbon in the leaf fossils preserved in the sediment of Lake Suigetsu comes directly from the atmosphere and, as such, is not affected by the processes that can slightly change the radiocarbon levels found in marine sediments or cave formations.