16 December 2020
As producers of biomass, cyanobacteria are a major part of the phytoplankton in a large number of water basins. Due to the cyanobacterial blooms and cyanotoxins produced, these organisms are recognized as a threat and ecological risk for water bodies. Released cyanotoxins may cause death of many organisms including birds and fish. Vaya Lake is the largest natural lake in Bulgaria. It is located on the Via Pontica migration route of birds between Europe and Africa. Since 2003, the lake has been declared as a "Wetland of international importance” under the Ramsar Convention. According to the literature data from 2002-2006, the Lake is defined as highly eutrophied due to strong anthropogenic pressure, but regular monitoring of the cyanobacterial blooms and presence of cyanotoxins after this period is missing. Taking into account the importance of this unique, protected ecosystem, our aim was to make a complete ecological assessment of the present state of Lake Vaya by using the phytoplankton, with an emphasis on cyanobacterial blooms and the presence of cyanotoxins. As results of the study, we 1) characterized the phytoplankton composition qualitatively and quantitatively; 2) evaluated the ecological status of the western and eastern part of the Lake; 3) identified the potential producers of cyanotoxins; 4) observed cyanobacterial blooms and discussed the influence of macrophytes on their spread; 5) measured the concentrations of the cyanotoxins MCs, CYL and STXs in water samples from both parts of the Lake. Our results indicated the need for continued observation of cyanobacterial composition, blooming and the presence of cyanotoxins in Lake Vaya.