Bacterial activities in the Dead Sea, 1980-1991: survival at the upper limit of salinity

Aharon Oren*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Since the mass development of halophilic bacteria in 1980 and the subsequent decline of the community in 1982, no new mass development of bacteria has occurred in the Dead Sea, and bacterial numbers have remained extremely low. The lake's salinity, and more specifically the divalent cation concentration, have increased greatly during the last ten years. To quantitate the activity of the community of heterotrophic bacteria in the Dead Sea water column, rates of incorporation of amino acids, glycerol, and acetate were measured, both during the 1980-1981 bloom and in recent years. With the development of the bloom, rates of incorporation amino acids, glycerol and acetate increased. Concomitant with the decline in bacterial numbers, the incorporation rates of amino acids and acetate decreased at the end of 1980-beginning of 1981, while glycerol incorporation rates remained high for one more year. Measurements in 1989 and in 1991 showed very low but significant incorporation rates (three to four orders of magnitude lower than during the 1980-1981 bloom). By the use of specific inhibitors, it was shown that the remaining activity was due to halophilic archaeobacteria. The mechanism of the long-term survival of a small active bacterial community in the Dead Sea in the absence of primary producers and other obvious sources of organic carbon, and at divalent cation concentrations greatly exceeding those enabling growth, is still unknown.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)7-20
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Salt Lake Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1992


  • Dead Sea
  • bacteria
  • salinity


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