Microcystin as a Biogeochemical Cycle:  pools, fluxes, and fates of the cyanotoxin in aquatic ecosystems

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Quin Shingai, Grace Marie Wilkinson


Cyanotoxins such as microcystin pose a serious threat to aquatic ecosystems and human health. As such, there is a pressing need understand the production, movement, and storage of microcystin in lentic waterbodies. We constructed a biogeochemical cycle for microcystin through a comprehensive literature synthesis, identifying four major pools and nine fluxes. This conceptual model can be used as the framework for developing ecosystem mass balances of microcystin. We propose that the concentration of microcystin in the water column is the balance between the import, sediment translocation, internal production and the degradation, uptake, burial, and export. However, unknowns remain pertaining to the magnitude and movement of microcystin. Future investigations should focus on sediment fluxes, drivers of biodegradation, and the seasonal dynamics. Adopting the framework of a ‘microcystin cycle’ not only improves our understanding of processes driving toxin prevalence but can help to prioritize strategies for minimizing exposure risks.




Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences, Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology


microcystin, cyanotoxins, cyanobacteria


Published: 2022-06-17 21:34

Last Updated: 2022-06-18 01:34


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:

Data Availability (Reason not available):
This is a literature synthesis is from previously published data by other authors. The collated values from the literature and proper citation are in the Supplementary Information. The code and tabulated values for figure generation can be found at https://github.com/goodgracious23/microcystin_cycle and will be archived at Zenodo upon acceptance of the manuscript.

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