Living and Fossil stromatolites in the Dead Sea Basin

Stromatolites represent the oldest forms of life and are commonly defined as laminated organo-sedimentary structures built by the trapping, binding and/or precipitation of minerals via microbial processes. Dead-Sea stromatolites have attracted considerable attention and recently have been used to constrain the late Quaternary lake level curve. This closed-basin contains living and fossil stromatolites at a wide range of water salinity, temperature, oxidation state, and  lighting. The basin thus offers a unique opportunity to understand the environmental factors controlling their formation as well as to develop a better chronology for the last glaciation, respectively. We propose to study recent microbial mats (stromatolites) around the Dead-Sea and identify relationships between the environment and observable characteristics that might be recorded in rocks. Based on stromatolites we have mapped around the Dead-Sea, we will combine a geomorphological and geomicrobiological approach to: - Better resolve lake level changes by quantifying the variation of water volumes in the Dead-Sea from the Late Pleistocene to the Holocene - Determine the natural environmental conditions where modern stromatolite types are growing around the Dead-Sea. - Carry out experimental investigations in the laboratory under controlled conditions, from a nanometric- to a mm-scale. By dating these microbialites we will provide a more robust chronology of lake level changes as well as their tempo and magnitude. This is critical for developing predictive patterns of the present day Dead-Sea  level changes that are of major societal interest. This is also crucial for unraveling conditions at the "agricultural revolution" incurring around the lake during its last recess.