Effect-based methods (EBMs) are recommended as holistic approach for diagnosis and monitoring of water quality; however, the application of EBMs is still scare in China. In the present study, water quality of the freshwater lake Taihu (China) was investigated by EBMs. Different types of water samples were collected from three bays of the lake during 2015, 2016 and 2017. A battery of seven effect-based bioassays, including both specific and non-specific toxicity assays, was used. The bioassay battery was recently suggested based on joint activities of the EU project SOLUTIONS and the NORMAN network on emerging pollutants and is also under discussion for being implemented into monitoring activities in the context of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD). Adverse effects were observed towards the primary producer, primary consumer and fish, indicating the potential ecotoxicity of water in Taihu Lake. Mutagenic and estrogenic effects were found in the Ames fluctuation assay and ERα CALUX (Chemically Activated Luciferase Gene-eXpression) assay, respectively, highlighting the potential risks on human health. Algal growth inhibition and mutagenic effects can be observed during each of the three years. Acute toxicity towards Daphnia magna and estrogen receptor agonistic effects were found in at least one of the samples collected in 2016 and 2017, but not in 2015. The endpoints for fish toxicity in the Danio rerio fish embryo test included both lethal and additionally several sublethal effects (only for samples from 2017) and were not compared between years. Algal growth inhibition, fish embryo toxicity, mutagenic effect and estrogenicity were observed in each of the three bays, while Daphnia acute toxicity was only found in Zhushan Bay. Taking together, this study provides a big picture on the water quality of Taihu Lake. The battery of effect-based tools is promising to be a routine for water quality monitoring in China.
Keywords: Effect-based methods; Pollution; Taihu Lake; Toxicity; Water quality assessment.
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