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Microcystin (MC) is a hepatotoxin produced by cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) which is found globally in eutrophic waters including lakes, lagoons and estuaries (Paerl and Paul 2012). The presence of MC in food webs is of concern due to adverse effects on biota and exposure to humans via commercial and recreational fisheries (Paerl and Otten 2013). Little is known regarding the factors which determine MC accumulation in food webs. We hypothesized that dietary exposure would be determined in part by sources of organic matter supporting the food web. We undertook a comparative study of the James River Estuary, a sub-estuary of Chesapeake Bay, and the Curonian Lagoon, a sub-estuary of the Baltic Sea and largest coastal lagoon in Europe. Both sites experience cyanobacteria blooms known to produce MC (Wood et al. 2014; Lesutienė et al. 2014), but differ in their sources of organic matter. The James receives large inputs of terrestrial organic matter due to the draining of a mountainous catchment. The Curonian Lagoon is fed by a lowland river which delivers low concentrations of terrestrial organic matter. We hypothesized that high internal production in the lagoon, coupled with lower dilution by terrestrial organic matter inputs, would results in greater exposure to MC among biota of the Curonian Lagoon.
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VCU Rice Rivers Center Research Symposium