EGU2020-8414, updated on 12 Jun 2020
EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The diatom flora of Lake Lisan (Israel): a preliminary investigation

Hannah Hartung1, Jane M. Reed2, and Thomas Litt3
Hannah Hartung et al.
  • 1Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany (
  • 2The Department of Geography, Geology and Environment, University of Hull, Hull, United Kingdom
  • 3Institute of Geosciences, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany

The Eastern Mediterranean, and the southern Levant in particular, is a key region for palaeoclimatological and palaeoenvironmental research due to its highly complex topography and climatic variability. Our understanding of environmental variability and its possible drivers, and the interaction with migration processes of modern Homo sapiens from a source area in Africa to Europe, is still limited. This is partly because continuous sediment records of sufficient age are rare across the Mediterranean Basin. The deposits of the Dead Sea represent an ideal archive to investigate palaeoenvironmental conditions during human migration phases in the Last Glacial period (MIS 4-2). 

Diatoms (single-celled siliceous algae, Bacillariophyceae) have well-recognised potential to generate high-quality palaeolimnological data, especially in closed-basin saline lakes, but they remain one of the least-exploited proxies in Eastern Mediterranean palaeoclimate research. Here, we present preliminary results of a low-resolution diatom study derived from analysis of sediment deposits of Lake Lisan, the last glacial precursor of the Dead Sea. Sediment cores were recovered during an ICDP campaign in 2010/2011 from the centre of the modern Dead Sea. 18 sediment samples were analysed to investigate (a) the preservation of diatom valves in various evaporitic deposits (b) possible shifts in diatom species composition of Lake Lisan during the Last Glacial period, and (c) if diatoms can be used as proxy indicator for lake-level and, thus, palaeoclimate reconstruction. We focus on a prominent lake-level high stand of Lake Lisan at around 28-22 ka BP, which resulted in the merging Lake Lisan and freshwater Lake Kinneret.

First results show that the diatom preservation is exceptionally good in evaporitic deposits of the sediment cores from Lake Lisan, which is contradictory to the available literature. In contrast to Holocene deposits from the Dead Sea, diatoms are abundant in all analysed samples from laminated deposits from Lake Lisan: the diatom flora is dominated by halophilous benthic diatoms, such as Amphora spp., Halamphora spp. and Nitzschia spp. In phases of lake-level high stands of Lake Lisan, the diatom flora shifts towards a more plankton-dominated freshwater flora containing Aulacoseira spp. and taxa from the Cyclotella-ocellata-species complex.

How to cite: Hartung, H., Reed, J. M., and Litt, T.: The diatom flora of Lake Lisan (Israel): a preliminary investigation, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-8414,, 2020

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  • CC1: Comment on EGU2020-8414, Camille Thomas, 08 May 2020

    Hi Hannah! A question regarding differences between high and low-levels during the Lisan period. You find benthic dominated assemblages during low stands, and more plankton-dominance in the high stands. Is this a relative dominance, and does the abundance change from a period to another? I wonder if the benthic abundance is just covered by the appearance of more planktonic species when the lake has a high level. cheers!