Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 7, pp 6300–6307 | Cite as

Seasonal and spatial variations of microcystins in Poyang Lake, the largest freshwater lake in China

  • Li Zhang
  • Jutao Liu
  • Dawen Zhang
  • Linguang Luo
  • Qiegen Liao
  • Lijuan Yuan
  • Naicheng Wu
Research Article


Poyang Lake is the largest freshwater lake in China and an important drinking water source. Since the year 2000, toxic cyanobacteria have been observed frequently in Poyang Lake. In the present study, spatial and seasonal variations of microcystins (MCs; MC-RR, MC-YR, and MC-LR) in water column were examined monthly from January to December (except the months of March, May, and November) in 2013, by using ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization tandem triple quadrupole/mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS). MC-RR was the most dominant variant, followed by MC-LR, while MC-YR was detected in low concentration. Total MC concentrations (intracellular + extracellular MCs) ranged from 1.26 to 9916.05 ng/L, with an average of 469.99 ng/L, and only 3.14% (6 out of 192 samples) of the water samples contained MC concentrations that exceeded the drinking water guideline level of 1 μg/L for MC-LR proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO). MC concentrations in water column showed obvious seasonal variations in Poyang Lake. Intracellular and extracellular MCs were both at a low level from January to April but increased quickly from June to August and decreased dramatically thereafter. Intracellular MCs exhibited similar spatial distribution pattern with extracellular MCs. Both intracellular and extracellular MC concentrations in eastern bays and around Songmen Mountain of Poyang Lake were higher than other regions. Intracellular MC concentrations were positively correlated with Chl a (r = 046, P < 0.01), pH (r = 0.25, P < 0.01), cyanobacterial biomass (r = 0.40, P < 0.01), and temperature (r = 0.36, P < 0.01) but negatively correlated with TN (r = − 0.28, P < 0.01), suggesting that TN, cyanobacteria biomass, pH, and temperature might be regulating factors for MC production in Poyang Lake.


Cyanobacteria Microcystins Seasonal variation Spatial distribution Poyang Lake 



Special thanks are due to the Lake Poyang Laboratory for Wetland Ecosystem Research (PLWER) for providing the foundation for the experiment.


  1. American Public Health Association (APHA) (1998) Standard methods for the examination of water and waste water, 20th edn. American public Health Association, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  2. Brookes JD, Carey CC (2011) Resilience to blooms. Science 334(6052):46–47.  https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1207349 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chen J, Xie P, Li L, Xu J (2009) First identification of the hepatotoxic microcystins in the serum of a chronically exposed human population together with indication of hepatocellular damage. Toxicol Sci 108(1):81–89.  https://doi.org/10.1093/toxsci/kfp009 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chen YW, Qin BQ, Teubner K, Dokulil MT (2003) Long-term dynamics of phytoplankton assemblages: Microcystis-domination in Lake Taihu, a large shallow lake in China. J Plankton Res 25(4):445–453.  https://doi.org/10.1093/plankt/25.4.445 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chen YW,Gao XY (2000) Comparison of Two Methods for Phytoplankton Chlorophyll-a Concentration Measurement. J Lake Sci 12:185-188. https://doi.org/10.18307/2000.0215
  6. Chorus I (2001) Cyanotoxins: occurrence, causes, consequences. Springer, Berlin.  https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-59514-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chorus I, Bartram J (1999) Toxic cyanobacteria in water: a guide to their public health consequences, monitoring, and management. E&FN Spon, London.  https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203478073 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Crayton WM, Sommerfeld MR (1979) Composition and abundance of phytoplankton in tributaries of the lower Colorado river, Grand Canyon region. Hydrobiologia 66:81–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dai RH, Wang PF, Jia PL, Zhang Y, Chu XC, Wang YF (2016) A review on factors affecting microcystins production by algae in aquatic environments. World J Microbiol Biotechnol 32(3):51.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11274-015-2003-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Duong TT, Le TPQ, Dao TS, Pflugmacher S, Rochelle-Newall E, Hoang TK, NT V, Ho CT, Dang DK (2013) Seasonal variation of cyanobacteria and microcystins in the Nui Coc Reservoir, northern Vietnam. J Appl Phycol 25(4):1065–1075.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10811-012-9919-9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Elliott JA (2012) Predicting the impact of changing nutrient load and temperature on the phytoplankton of England’s largest lake, Windermere. Freshw Biol 57(2):400–413.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2427.2011.02717.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Falconer IR, Jackson ARB, Langley J (1981) Liver pathology in mice in poisoning by the blue-green alga Microcystis aeruginosa. Aust J Diol Sci 34:179–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gu P, Wan JB (2011) Hydrology character of Poyang Lake and its influence on water quality. Environ Pollut Control 33:15–19 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  14. Gupta N, Pant SC, Vijayarghavan R, Rao PV (2003) Comparative toxicity evaluation of cyanobacterial cyclic peptide toxin microcystin variants (LR, RR, YR) in mice. Toxicology 188(2-3):285–296.  https://doi.org/10.1016/S0300-483X(03)00112-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gurbuz F, Metcalf JS, Karahan AG, Codd GA (2009) Analysis of dissolved microcystins in surface water samples from Kovada Lake, Turkey. Sci Total Environ 407(13):4038–4046.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2009.02.039 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hu HJ, Li R, Wei YX, Zhu C, Chen J, Shi ZX (1979) Freshwater algae in China. Science Press, Shanghai (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  17. Jungmann D, Ludwichowski KU, Faltin V, Benndorf J (1996) A field study to investigate environmental factors that could affect microcystin sythesis of a Microcystis population in the Bautzen reservoir. Int Rev Hydrobiol 81(4):493–501.  https://doi.org/10.1002/iroh.19960810402 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lee TA, Rollwagen-Bollens G, Bollens SM (2015) Environmental influence on cyanobacteria abundance and microcystin toxin production in a shallow temperate lake. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf 114:318–325.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2014.05.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Li F, Zhen L, Huang HQ, Han P, Liu XL, Jiang LG, Wei YJ (2009) Impacts of land use functional change on WTA and economic compensation for core stakeholders: a case study in Poyang Lake. Resources Sci 31:580–589 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  20. Liao MN, Yu G, Guo Y (2017) Eutrophication in Poyang Lake (eastern China) over the last 300 years in response to changes in climate and lake biomass. PLoS One 12(1):e0169319.  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0169319 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Liu X, Li YL, Liu BG, Qian KM, Chen YW, Gao JF (2016) Cyanobacteria in the complex river-connected Poyang Lake: horizontal distribution and transport. Hydrobiologia 768(1):95–110.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-015-2536-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Malbrouck C, Kestemont P (2006) Effects of microcystins on fish. Environ Toxicol Chem 25(1):72–86.  https://doi.org/10.1897/05-029R.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Metcalf JS, Codd GA (2012) Cyanotoxins. In: Whitton BA (ed) Ecology of cyanobacteria II. Springer, pp 651–675.  https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-3855-3_24
  24. Ozawa K, Fujioka H, Muranaka M, Yokoyama A, Katagami Y, Watanabe MF, Park HD (2005) Spatial distribution and temporal variation of Microcystis species composition and microcystin concentration in Lake Biwa. Environ Toxicol 20(3):270–276.  https://doi.org/10.1002/tox.20117 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pantelic D, Svircev Z, Simeunovic J, Vidovic M, Trajkovic I (2013) Cyanotoxins: characteristics, production and degradation routes in drinking water treatment with reference to the situation in Serbia. Chemosphere 91(4):421–441.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2013.01.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pavagadhi S, Balasubramanian R (2013) Toxicological evaluation of microcystins in aquatic fish species: current knowledge and future directions. Aquat Toxicol 142-143:1–16.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aquatox.2013.07.010 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Salmaso N, Copetti D, Cerasino L, Shams S, Capelli C, Boscaini A, Valsecchi L, Pozzoni F, Guzzellla L (2014) Variability of microcystin cell quota in metapopulations of Planktothrix rubescens: causes and implications for water management. Toxicon: Off J Int Soc Toxinol 90:82–96.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.toxicon.2014.07.022 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Shankman D, Keim BD, Song J (2006) Flood frequency in China’s Poyang Lake region: trends and teleconnections. Int J Climatol 26(9):1255–1266.  https://doi.org/10.1002/joc.1307 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sharma A, Sharma RC, Anthwal A (2007) Monitoring phytoplanktonic diversity in the hill stream Chandrabhaga of Garhwal Himalaya. Life Sci J 4:80–84Google Scholar
  30. Shei P, Lin W, Wang S, Liu JK (1993) Plankton and seston structure in a shallow, eutrophics subtropical Chinese Lake. Arch Hydrobiol 129:199–220Google Scholar
  31. Sinang SC, Reichwaldt ES, Ghadouani A (2013) Spatial and temporal variability in the relationship between cyanobacterial biomass and microcystins. Environ Monit Assess 185(8):6379–6395.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-012-3031-0 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Singh S, Rai PK, Chau R, Ravi AK, Neilan BA, Asthana RK (2015) Temporal variations in microcystin-producing cells and microcystin concentrations in two fresh water ponds. Water Res 69:131–142.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2014.11.015 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sui HX, Xu HB, Yan WX, Chen Y (2007) Pollution status of microcystin in Dianshan Lake and Poyang Lake in China. J Environ Health 24:136–138 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  34. Tao M, Xie P, Chen J, Qin BQ, Zhang DW, Niu Y, Zhang M, Wang Q, Wu LY (2012) Use of a generalized additive model to investigate key abiotic factors affecting microcystin cellular quotas in heavy bloom areas of Lake Taihu. PLoS One 7(2):e32020.  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0032020 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Webster LT (1990) Effect of wind on the distribution of phytoplankton cells in lakes. Limnol Oceanogr 35(5):989–1001.  https://doi.org/10.4319/lo.1990.35.5.0989 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Wu SK, Xie P, Liang GD, Wang SB, Liang XM (2006) Relationships between microcystins and environmental parameters in 30 subtropical shallow lakes along the Yangtze River, China. Freshw Biol 51:2309–2319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Yang H, Xie P, Xu J, Zheng L, Deng D, Zhou Q, Wu S (2006) Seasonal variation of microcystin concentration in Lake Chaohu, a shallow subtropical lake in the People’s Republic of China. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 77(3):367–374.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s00128-006-1075-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Yu GL, Jiang YG, Song GF, Tan WH, Zhu ML, LRH (2014) Variation of Microcystis and microcystins coupling nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients in Lake Erhai, a drinking-water source in Southwest Plateau, China. Environ Sci Pollut Res 21(16):9887–9898.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-014-2937-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Yu SZ (1995) Primary prevention of hepatocellular carcinoma. J Gastroenterol Hepatol 10:674–682CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Zhang DW, Liao QG, Zhang L, Wang DG, Luo LG, Chen YW, Zhong JY, Liu JT (2015) Occurrence and spatial distributions of microcystins in Poyang Lake, the largest freshwater lake in China. Ecotoxicology 24(1):19–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Zhou J, Qin BQ, Han XX, Zhu L (2016) Turbulence increases the risk of microcystin exposure in a eutrophic lake (Lake Taihu) during cyanobacterial bloom periods. Harmful Algae 55:213–220.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hal.2016.03.016 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Li Zhang
    • 1
  • Jutao Liu
    • 2
  • Dawen Zhang
    • 1
  • Linguang Luo
    • 1
  • Qiegen Liao
    • 1
  • Lijuan Yuan
    • 1
  • Naicheng Wu
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute for Quality and Safety and Standards of Agricultural Products ResearchJiangxi Academy of Agricultural SciencesNanchangPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Jiangxi Provincial Institute of Water SciencesNanchangChina
  3. 3.Aarhus Institute of Advanced StudiesAarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark

Personalised recommendations