Despite its name, the Dead Sea is a lake situated in the Jordan Valley in Western Asia. The lake is bordered by Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan with its primary branch being the Jordan River. The lake’s surface and shores are at one of the world’s lowest elevations on earth. The Dead Sea is one of the saltiest water bodies on earth. The region has attracted tourists for many years, and it was one of the initial health resorts in the world. The Dead Sea is often thought to have acquired its name from the fact that its hypersaline nature limits aquatic plants and animal life residing within its waters.
Can Anything Live in the Dead Sea?
While higher organisms like aquatic plants and fishes cannot survive in this saline lake, numerous microbial fungi and bacteria can thrive in the Dead Sea. These microorganisms are well adapted to the hyper-salinity conditions of this lake. The chemical composition of this lake changes during the rainy seasons due to the influx of freshwater into the lake. The reduction in salinity of the Dead Sea during the rainy season results in increases the number of microorganisms living in the water.
The salt content of the Dead Sea fell below 30% in 1981, resulting in the color of the lake changing from dark blue to red. Researchers from the Hebrew University discovered the color change was caused by the presence of Dunaliella which nourishes on carotenoid-containing Halobacteria.
Scientists from Germany and Israel found some fissures on the floor of this lake while they were scuba diving and observing the Dead Sea. The fissures allowed brackish water and freshwater fishes to get into the Dead Sea. After sampling the biofilm on these fissures, they discovered numerous archaea and bacteria species.
Life Around the Dead Sea
Numerous animal species like leopards, jackals, hares, ibex, foxes, wolves, and hyenas have been seen on the hills bordering the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea zone is also home to many bird species with Israel and Jordan having developed nature reserves in this region. The Jordan Valley is a migratory corridor for many animals, including birds that are migrating to Africa.
There are many small settlements on the Israeli side (Avnat, Mitzpe Shalem, Kayla, Neve Zohar, and Ein Gedi) and the Jordanian side (Potash City and Suweima among others). The Highway 65 stretches from Aqaba port to the northern side of Jordan near the Dead Sea. There are numerous hotels at Ein Bokek.
Israel has fifteen hotels on the shores of the Dead Sea, which generated revenue of about $291 million in 2012. The majority of the Israeli hotels are on a 3.7 miles stretch from the southern shores. Nine international franchises have set up resort hotels on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea together with many resort apartments. The British built a golf course known as Sodom-and-Gomorrah in Kalia. According to the World Bank, the 25 miles long Palestine (West Bank) Dead Sea shore can generate 2,900 jobs and $290 million in revenue, but the government has failed to acquire a construction permit. The only way they can apply for a license is through a joint committee that was formed under the Oslo Accords. The committee has never met since 2000.