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


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.

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


This study was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundations of China (Grant 31360133).

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Correspondence to Dawen Zhang.

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Responsible editor: Vitor Manuel Oliveira Vasconcelos

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Zhang, L., Liu, J., Zhang, D. et al. Seasonal and spatial variations of microcystins in Poyang Lake, the largest freshwater lake in China. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25, 6300–6307 (2018).

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  • Cyanobacteria
  • Microcystins
  • Seasonal variation
  • Spatial distribution
  • Poyang Lake