Gloeotrichia pisum in Lake Kinneret: A successful epiphytic cyanobacterium

Naama Lang-Yona, Alla Alster, David Cummings, Zohar Freiman, Ruth Kaplan-Levy, Achsa Lupu, Nechama Malinsky-Rushansky, Shira Ninio, Assaf Sukenik, Yehudith Viner-Mozzini, Tamar Zohary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With climate change and re-oligotrophication of lakes due to restoration efforts, the relative importance of benthic cyanobacteria is increasing, but they are much less studied than their planktonic counterparts. Following a major water level rise event that inundated massive reed stands in Lake Kinneret, Israel, we discovered the appearance of a vast abundance of Gloeotrichia pisum (cyanobacteria). This provided an opportunity to investigate the biology and ecology of a benthic epiphytic colonial cyanobacterium, proliferating under altered environmental conditions, with possible toxin production potential and as a model for an invasive epiphyte. The species was identified by its typical morphology, and by sequencing its 16S rRNA gene and the intragenic space. We report on the abundance and spatial distribution of the detected colonies, their morphological characteristics, and pigment composition. High phycoerythrin content provides a brownish color and supports growth at low light levels. Genomic community composition analysis revealed that G. pisum colonies host a diverse microbial community of microalgae, cyanobacteria, bacteria, and archaea with a conserved and characteristic taxonomic composition. The Synechococcales order showed high relative abundance in the colony, as well as other prokaryotes producing secondary metabolites, such as the rhodopsin producer Pseudorhodobacter. The microbial consortium in the colonies performed nitrogen fixation. The diazotroph's phylogenetic relations were demonstrated. Tests for the presence of cyanotoxins (microcystin and cylindrospermopsin) proved negative. This study is the first documentation of this genus in Israel, providing insights into the invasive nature of G. pisum and the ecological implications of its appearance in a lake ecosystem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-110
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Phycology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Nostocales
  • benthic
  • invasive
  • littoral
  • microbiome
  • nitrogen fixation

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aquatic Science
  • Plant Science


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