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Cyanobacteria, cyanotoxin synthetase gene, and cyanotoxin occurrence among selected large river sites of the conterminous United States, 2017–18

November 16, 2021

The U.S. Geological Survey measured cyanobacteria, cyanotoxin synthetase genes, and cyanotoxins at 11 river sites throughout the conterminous United States in a multiyear pilot study during 2017–19 through the National Water Quality Assessment Project to better understand the occurrence of cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins in large inland and coastal rivers. This report focuses on the first 2 years of data collection (2017 and 2018) and describes occurrence of anatoxin-, cylindrospermopsin-, microcystin-, and saxitoxin-producing cyanobacteria, cyanotoxin synthetase genes (anaC, cyrA, taxa specific mcyE, and sxtA), and cyanotoxins (anatoxins, cylindrospermopsins, microcystins, and saxitoxins). Study findings demonstrate that cyanobacteria, cyanotoxin synthetase genes, and cyanotoxins are present in large U.S rivers under ambient conditions and show that downstream transport and flushing likely affect relative abundance of potential cyanotoxin-producing cyanobacteria. Additionally, the results agree with existing literature that support the importance of water temperature, light, and nutrients—as moderated by hydrologic conditions—in shaping the structure of riverine cyanobacterial communities.