, Volume 49, Issue 4, pp 487-500
Date: 29 Jul 2005

Distribution of Microcystins in a Lake Foodweb: No Evidence for Biomagnification

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Abstract

Microcystins, toxins produced by cyanobacteria, may play a role in fish kills, although their specific contribution remains unclear. A better understanding of the eco-toxicological effects of microcystins is hampered by a lack of analyses at different trophic levels in lake foodwebs. We present 3 years of monitoring data, and directly compare the transfer of microcystin in the foodweb starting with the uptake of (toxic) cyanobacteria by two different filter feeders: the cladoceran Daphnia galeata and the zebra mussel Dreissena polymorpha. Furthermore foodwebs are compared in years in which the colonial cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa or the filamentous cyanobacterium Planktothrix agardhii dominated; there are implications in terms of the types and amount of microcystins produced and in the ingestion of cyanobacteria. Microcystin concentrations in the seston commonly reached levels where harmful effects on zooplankton are to be expected. Likewise, concentrations in zooplankton reached levels where intoxication of fish is likely. The food chain starting with Dreissena (consumed by roach and diving ducks) remained relatively free from microcystins. Liver damage, typical for exposure to microcystins, was observed in a large fraction of the populations of different fish species, although no relation with the amount of microcystin could be established. Microcystin levels were especially high in the livers of planktivorous fish, mainly smelt. This puts piscivorous birds at risk. We found no evidence for biomagnification of microcystins. Concentrations in filter feeders were always much below those in the seston, and yet vectorial transport to higher trophic levels took place. Concentrations of microcystin in smelt liver exceeded those in the diet of these fish, but it is incorrect to compare levels in a selected organ to those in a whole organism (zooplankton). The discussion focuses on the implications of detoxication and covalent binding of microcystin for the transfer of the toxin in the foodweb. It seems likely that microcystins are one, but not the sole, factor involved in fish kills during blooms of cyanobacteria.