Sinkholes as a source of life in the Dead Sea region

Abstract

In recent decades, the Dead Sea region has suffered greatly from anthropogenic activities that have resulted in a massive decrease of the Dead Sea water level. This decrease has allowed the penetration of fresh ground water into the underground layer, which dissolved the salt layer and created sinkholes. Presently there are over 5000 sinkholes spread across the west bank of the Dead Sea, some of which are filled with water originating from rainfall, flash floods and spring water. Although sinkholes are detrimental to road infrastructure and tourist sites, they have dramatically increased the number of aquatic habitats surrounding the Dead Sea. In a cross-sectional study of 94 sinkholes along the north-west bank of the Dead Sea, coupled with a longitudinal study of six sinkholes, we examined how the community of invertebrates in the sinkholes is affected by environmental and geographic variables and how biological succession occurs in the sinkholes. We found that sinkholes are populated mainly by aquatic insects, which have high tolerance of a variety of environmental conditions. We also found that the community of invertebrates in the sinkholes is shaped by environmental variables such as salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen concentration, water temperature and the size of the sinkhole. We further found that the geographic distance between the sinkholes increases spatial species turnover and that species turnover across time was high. Patterns of species composition were similar in all the sinkholes, with the community structure during the wet season changing from early to mid-season, and then again from mid-season to late season. Interestingly, despite the extreme conditions of the water of the sinkholes, their seasonal succession processes were similar to those of temporary water bodies along the Mediterranean coast of Israel.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7

References

  1. Abellán P, Gómez-Zurita J, Millán A, Sánchez-Fernández D, Velasco J, Galián J, Ribera I (2007) Conservation genetics in hypersaline inland waters: mitochondrial diversity and phylogeography of an endangered Iberian beetle (Coleoptera: Hydraenidae). Conserv Genet 8:79–88

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Adar O, Groner E, Natan GB (2014) Colonization of a new habitat: the case of the Dead Sea sinkholes—preliminary observations. Negev Dead Sea Arava Stud 6:74–89

    Google Scholar 

  3. Angelon KA, Petranka JW (2002) Chemicals of predatory mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) influence selection of oviposition site by Culex mosquitoes. J Chem Ecol 28:797–806

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Baselga A (2010) Partitioning the turnover and nestedness components of beta diversity. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 19:134–143

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Beketov MA, Liess M (2005) Acute contamination with esfenvalerate and food limitation: chronic effects on the mayfly, Cloeon dipterum. Environ Toxicol Chem 24:1281–1286

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Ben-David E (2005) Streams rehabilitation: sensitivity of invertebrates to salification. M.Sc. thesis, Tel Aviv University (in Hebrew)

  7. Beutel R (1999) Morphology and evolution of the larval head of Hydrophiloidea and Histeroidea (Coleoptera: Staphyliniformia). Tijdschrift voor Entomologie 142:9–30

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Boix D, Kneitel J, Robson BJ, Duchet C, Zúñiga L, Day J, Gascón S, Sala J, Quintana XD, Blaustein L (2016) Invertebrates of freshwater temporary ponds in Mediterranean climates. In: Batzer D, Boix D (eds) Invertebrates in freshwater wetlands. Springer, New York, pp 141–189

    Google Scholar 

  9. Bournaud M, Richoux P, Usseglio-Polatera P (1992) An approach to the synthesis of qualitative ecological information from aquatic Coleoptera communities. Regul Rivers Res Manag 7:165–180

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Brammer CA, von Dohlen CD (2007) Evolutionary history of Stratiomyidae (Insecta: Diptera): the molecular phylogeny of a diverse family of flies. Mol Phylogenet Evol 43:660–673

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Cavender-Bares J, Kozak KH, Fine PV, Kembel SW (2009) The merging of community ecology and phylogenetic biology. Ecol Lett 12:693–715

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Chapman J, Reynolds D, Smith A, Smith E, Woiwod I (2004) An aerial netting study of insects migrating at high altitude over England. Bull Entomol Res 94:123–136

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Cirés S, Wörmer L, Agha R, Quesada A (2013) Overwintering populations of Anabaena, Aphanizomenon and Microcystis as potential inocula for summer blooms. J Plankton Res 35:1254–1266

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Collins NC (1975) Population biology of a brine fly (Diptera: Ephydridae) in the presence of abundant algal food. Ecology 56:1139–1148

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Craft C, Megonigal P, Broome S, Stevenson J, Freese R, Cornell J, Sacco J (2003) The pace of ecosystem development of constructed Spartina alterniflora marshes. Ecol Appl 13:1417–1432‏

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Dole-Olivier MJ, Galassi DMP, Marmonier P, Des Châtelliers MC (2000) The biology and ecology of lotic microcrustaceans. Freshw Biol 44:63–91

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Furth DG (1983) Aquatic entomofauna of a Dead Sea oasis. Hydrobiologia 102:3–25

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Goldberg T, Nevo E, Degani G (2009) Breeding site selection according to suitability for amphibian larval growth under various ecological conditions in the semi-arid zone of northern Israel. Ecol Mediterr 35:65–74‏

    Google Scholar 

  19. Haedicke CW, Redei D, Kment P (2017) The diversity of feeding habits recorded for water boatmen (Heteroptera: Corixoidea) world-wide with implications for evaluating information on the diet of aquatic insects. Eur J Entomol 114:147–159‏

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Herbst G, Bromley H (1984) Relationships between habitat stability, ionic composition, and the distribution of aquatic invertebrates in the desert regions of Israel. Limnol Oceanogr 29:495–503

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Herbst DB, Conte PF, Brookes VJ (1988) Osmoregulation in an alkaline salt lake insect, Ephydra (Hydropyrus) hians Say (Diptera: Ephydridae) in relation to water chemistry. J Insect Physiol 34:903–909

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Keiller BM (2011) The impact of sinkholes on species richness and diversity: implications for mine rehabilitation. Ph.D. thesis, University of the Witwatersrand

  23. Kis-Papo T, Kirzhner V, Wasser SP, Nevo E (2003) Evolution of genomic diversity and sex at extreme environments: fungal life under hypersaline Dead Sea stress. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 100:14970–14975

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Legendre P, Gallagher ED (2001) Ecologically meaningful transformations for ordination of species data. Oecologia 129:271–280

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Lepš J, Šmilauer P (2003) Multivariate analysis of ecological data using CANOCO. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  26. Lieven AFV (1998) Functional morphology and phylogeny of the larval feeding apparatus in the Dasyheleinae and Forcipomyiinae (Diptera, Ceratopogonidae). Deutsche Entomologische Zeitschrift 45:49–64

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Macan T (1976) A twenty-one-year study of the water-bugs in a moorland fishpond. J Anim Ecol 45:913–922

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. MacArthur R, Wilson E (1967) The theory of island biogeography. Princeton University Press, Princeton

    Google Scholar 

  29. Matthies D, Bräuer I, Maibom W, Tscharntke T (2004) Population size and the risk of local extinction: empirical evidence from rare plants. Oikos 105:481–488

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Monakov A (1972) Review of studies on feeding of aquatic invertebrates conducted at the Institute of Biology of Inland Waters, Academy of Science, USSR. J Fish Board Can 29:363–383

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Nof RN, Baer G, Ziv A, Raz E, Atzori S, Salvi S (2013) Sinkhole precursors along the Dead Sea, Israel, revealed by SAR interferometry. Geology 41:1019–1022

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Oscoz J, Galicia D, Miranda R (2011) Taxa description and biology. In: Oscoz J, Galicia D, Miranda R (eds) Identification guide of freshwater macroinvertebrates of Spain. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 47–141

    Google Scholar 

  33. Pajunen VI, Pajunen I (1993) Competitive interactions limiting the number of species in rock pools: experiments with Sigara nigrolineata. Oecologia 95:220–225

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Pinder LCV (1986) Biology of freshwater Chironomidae. Annu Rev Entomol 31:1–23

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Popham EJ, Bryant MT, Savage AA (1984) The role of front legs of British corixid bugs in feeding and mating. J Nat Hist 18:445–464‏

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Raw JL, Perissinotto R, Miranda NAF, Peer N (2016) Feeding dynamics of Melanoides tuberculata (Müller, 1774). J Molluscan Stud 82:328–335‏

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Resetarits WJ (2001) Colonization under threat of predation: avoidance of fish by an aquatic beetle, Tropisternus lateralis (Coleoptera: Hydrophilidae). Oecologia 129:155–160

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Robison BH (2009) Conservation of deep pelagic biodiversity. Conserv Biol 23:847–858

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Rossi V, Benassi G, Belletti F, Menozzi P (2011) Colonization, population dynamics, predatory behaviour and cannibalism in Heterocypris incongruens (Crustacea: Ostracoda). J Limnol 70:102–108

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Saha N, Aditya G, Saha GK, Hampton SE (2010) Opportunistic foraging by Heteropteran mosquito predators. Aquat Ecol 44:167–176

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Sato M (1991) Comparative morphology of the mouthparts of the family Dolichopodidae (Diptera). Insecta Matsumurana 45:49–75

    Google Scholar 

  42. Schneider F (1969) Bionomics and physiology of aphidophagous Syrphidae. Annu Rev Entomol 14:103–124

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Shaalan EAS, Canyon DV, Muller R, Younes MWF, Abdel-Wahab H, Mansour AH (2007) A mosquito predator survey in Townsville, Australia, and an assessment of Diplonychus sp. and Anisops sp. predatorial capacity against Culex annulirostris mosquito immatures. J Vector Ecol 32:16–21

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Silberbush A, Blaustein L, Margalith Y (2005) Influence of salinity concentration on aquatic insect community structure: a mesocosm experiment in the Dead Sea Basin Region. Hydrobiologia 548:1–10

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Thompson DJ (1978) Prey size selection by larvae of the damselfly, Ischnura elegans (Odonata). J Anim Ecol 47:769–785

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Verberk WC, Siepel H, Esselink H (2008) Life-history strategies in freshwater macroinvertebrates. Freshw Biol 53:1722–1738

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Weider LJ, Lampert W (1985) Differential response of Daphnia genotypes to oxygen stress: respiration rates, hemoglobin content and low-oxygen tolerance. Oecologia 65:487–491

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Wollmann K (2000) Corixidae (Hemiptera, Heteroptera) in acidic mining lakes with pH ≤ 3 in Lusatia, Germany. Hydrobiologia 433:181–183

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Yechieli Y, Gavrieli I, Berkowitz B, Ronen D (1998) Will the Dead Sea die? Geology 26:755–758

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Yechieli Y, Abelson M, Bein A, Crouvi O, Shtivelman V (2006) Sinkhole “swarms” along the Dead Sea coast: reflection of disturbance of lake and adjacent groundwater systems. Geol Soc Am Bull 118:1075–1087‏

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Yechieli Y, Abelson M, Baer G (2016) Sinkhole formation and subsidence along the Dead Sea coast, Israel. Hydrogeol J 24:601–612‏

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to V. Baranov, L. Blaustein, I. Blecher, V. Chikatonov, J. A. Delgado, A. Friedberg, L. Friedman, J. Martin, H. Moller-Pillot, T. Novoselsky, T. Snor and Z. Yanai for their help in taxonomic identification of some of the invertebrates. We are also grateful to C. Yule and two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on the manuscript. We further thank E. Hazan from the Einot Tzukim nature reserve for assistance in the field, I. Gavrieli and G. Lapid from the Geological Survey of Israel for dating the sinkholes, and D. Milstein from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority for supporting us throughout the project. This study was funded by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

FBA conceived and designed the study. OH performed the research, analyzed the data and wrote the paper. FBA provided editorial advice. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Frida Ben-Ami.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hirshberg, O., Ben-Ami, F. Sinkholes as a source of life in the Dead Sea region. Aquat Sci 81, 14 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00027-018-0611-2

Download citation

Keywords

  • Aquatic habitats
  • Aquatic insects
  • Aquatic invertebrates
  • Community ecology
  • Extreme environments
  • Species diversity
  • Species richness