Alternative states in the phytoplankton of Lake Kinneret, Israel (Sea of Galilee) Academic Article uri icon


  • Through analyses of a 34-year record of phytoplankton, zooplankton and physicochemical parameters from Lake Kinneret, Israel, we show that distinct and persistent phytoplankton assemblage states occurred from winter to summer. The most obvious characteristic of these states was the presence or absence of a spring bloom of the dinoflagellate, Peridinium gatunense. Analyses of the data within the framework of the alternative states model revealed a possible complex triggering mechanism, and system hysteresis. A change in zooplankton biomass and body size coincident with changes in predation pressure associated with the collapse of the Kinneret Bleak, Acanthobrama terraesanctae, fishery appeared to be the 'slow changing' variable in the context of the alternative states model. Alternative phytoplankton states were only possible after this variable crossed a threshold in 1993-94, following the collapse of the fishery. When alternative states were possible, some physicochemical parameters and the structure of the zooplankton assemblage appeared to control which phytoplankton state emerged in a given year. In years without a P. gatunense bloom, important physicochemical parameters in winter included low NO3 loading, high water temperature, high water level, a deeper thermocline, low transparency, high concentrations of NO3 and Cl in the epilimnion, and low concentration of epilimnetic total phosphorus. In addition, the cladoceran Chydorus sphaericus and adults of the copepod Mesocyclops ogunnus were observed in winter in years without a bloom. Zooplankton biomass and body size of some taxa have recovered since the 1993-94 collapse of the fishery, yet incidence of both phytoplankton states in Lake Kinneret was still possible. Within the framework of the alternative states model, this suggests that the slow changing variable threshold where alternative states became possible is different from the threshold where alternative states will no longer be possible. In other words, the system is characterised by a hysteresis. © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

author list (cited authors)


citation count

  • 41

publication date

  • January 2007