Around Gotland

Yessiree! It’s time to jump into the water again!

After a long winter with lots of ice, and a well deserved trip to warmer water, it was time for yours truly to submerge oneself into the cool waters of the Baltic Sea.

Field season 2013 opened on Wednesday 22 May at the scenic island of Gotland, jewel of the Baltic Sea.

For the faithful reader, it comes as no surprise that it was time for the inventory of summer reproducing bladderwrack around this beautiful island, as part of the investigation we made along the mainland coast and Gotland last year (see previous post on Tångbloggen 2012 – A seaweed odyssey).

Gotland is well known by many botanists for its amazing flora, and the orchids certainly fought for space with primroses and lily of the valley along the road as we drove north from Visby up towards our first stop just south of Lickershamn.

Orchis mascula- Early purple orchid

Orchis mascula- Early purple orchid

Unfortunately, I think most people fail to see how beautiful Gotland is below the surface. The clear water and the dense seaweed forests are magically beautiful and are conveniently found at knee-depth in the water. If you do not like to get wet, you can easily experience life below the surface with a pair of high rubber boots or waders and water binoculars.

Our second stop was out on the island Fårö, at Lauter huvud. At the moment it’s a rather low water level in the Baltic Sea. It is caused by the weather and is not unusual this time of year. But it gets a little tricky to swim when you are constantly running aground. It was easier to walk among the rauks and occasionally stick my head under the surface in order to verify single specimens of Fucus. Quite possibly the occasional tourist who stayed at the car park was wondering what we were doing. One is not exactly discreet in a bright red dry suit. Hope I did not destroy too many photographs by emerging between rauks like a jack-in-the-box.

Having swum a little off the cliff edge, where it goes from 0.5 meters deep to 15 meters, we went to today’s third and last site at Östergarn.

Here the waves rolled in with a quiet rhythm, and if I had not been busy counting, I would certainly have fallen asleep, it was so very peaceful. The sun had come out and warmed my back as I floated about. I saw plaice, viviparous eelpout (Zooarces viviparus), stickleback, and Lesser pipefish (Syngnathus rostellatus).

Plattfisken vilar bland tången.

The plaice is resting among the seaweed.

The night was spent at the nice hostel in Hemsedal, which had very comfortable beds.

Thursday morning began with a trip down to the southernmost tip of Gotland, the Hoburg. Here we encountered more nature lovers in the form of a flock of birdwatchers. The species often nests at the southern tips of both Oland and Gotland and is easily recognized by the telescope that is often worn over the shoulder.

I even saw Red-Backed Shrike (Lanius collurio), Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) and a yellow bird that I didn’t recognize.

The sea was calm and the swans that landed some distance away did not attack the red ball splashing around, muttering through a tube (snorkel). It was nice to see that htere were many small juvenile seaweed individuals there. Reproduction last year was apparently very successful. Always a good sign.

Our last stop for a dip was just south of Klintehamn. On the way there we visited the nice naturum center in Vamlingbo for a short break. With coffee in the body, we parked at what must be Gotland’s busiest road, and changed into work clothes.

“When you take off your pants, five cars and a bus will always appear” – Old jungle proverb

It was the only site with lots of bladders on the wrack! One might think that bladderwrack always have bladders, but no! If the site is exposed to strong wave action, no bladders are formed. This is to minimize wave grip, so that the wrack does not get torn off by the waves.

Blåsor på blåstången - inte en självklarhet.

Bladders on the bladderwrack – not always to be expected.

It was plenty of gammarids, prawns and isopods here, and I hope I got a picture of the Lesser Pipefish hiding amongst the seaweed. It was obvious that there is a lot of nutrients coming out into the water as runnof from land. The seaweed had much filamentous algae growing on them. Swimming across it reminded me of a shaggy rug.

After again having fulfilled the jungle proverb (Why?!?) we headed towards Visby and enrolled into the prison. If we get out tomorrow remains to be seen.

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Dissertation time for thesis on Fucus radicans and Fucus vesiculosus

Friday 17th of May is not only the National Day of Norway to be celebrated, but also the doctoral defence of Daniel Johansson.
Daniel has studied at the Sven Loven Centre for Marine Sciences Tjärnö (more commonly known as TMBL) belonging to the University of Gothenburg.

Daniel’s thesis is entitled “Evolution of the brown algae Fucus radicans and Fucus vesiculosus in the Baltic Sea” and contains primarily work from a genetic point of view. There has been a lot of work put into obtaining the genetic identity of both species in order to distinguish Fucus radicans from Fucus vesiculosus, but also to be able to distinguish between different clones of Fucus radicans, which in the Gulf of Bothnia reproduces mostly vegetatively. This is achived by proliferation, small branches that fall off from the parent plant and then attach themselves to new substrate.

Small branches of Fucus radicans have formed rhizoids (sticky threads) that attach to the Petri dish.

Small branches of Fucus radicans have formed rhizoids (sticky threads) that attach to the Petri dish.

Daniel has also compared the ability of proliferation between different clones of Fucus radicans to see if the dominant clone, a female that has been found along 550 km of the Swedish Coast, was better than the other clones.

The defense starts at 14:00 in the Auditorium at Tjärnö, of course we will be there to listen!

International Seaweed Symposium – Day 4

With rested brains, it is once more time to stock up on more seaweed, both mentally and physically.

All things sweet and seaweedy

All things sweet and seaweedy

After an opening plenary lecture by Iain Neish about the importance of having a vision and being stubborn if we are to succeed with aquaculture, it was time for a cup of coffee, a slice of fruit cake and the day’s first mini-symposium.

Plenary with Iain Neish

Plenary lecture with Iain Neish


Mini Symposium: Cultivation of tropical red seaweeds

The most common species of red seaweed that are farmed are Eucheuma spp., Kappaphycus spp., Porphyra spp. and Gracillaria spp.
In Chile and Peru, it is primarily Gracillaria spp. that is farmed. In Chile, they seek to develop new methods to cultivate seaweed in the lab, instead of taking material from wild populations as many do today. They have also investigated whether it is possible to grow other commercial species.

In Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia, most seaweed is farmed using the fixed off-bottom technique in shallow waters. The trick is to place them deep enough so that the algae are not harmed by the intense sun during low tide.

Most algae in shallow waters are farmed using the off-bottom method.

Most algae in shallow waters are farmed using the off-bottom method.

In deeper water, they use the free-swing method, where only one end is fixed at the bottom. The downside is that it takes up quite a lot of space, and then they must be set at such a distance that they do not become entangled in each other.

The free swing method, attached at only one point.

The free swing method, attached at only one point.

Other methods for deeper water is something called single longline rafts, spider web rafts or floating triangle, depending on how you have designed the ropes. But these rafts are secured at all four corners and thus are more stationary. It also means that you can place them closer together, without risking entanglement.

In deeper waters, single longline rafts are common.

In deeper waters, single longline rafts are common.

Some growers use hanging baskets that the seaweed is floating freely in, which does not seem like a good idea to me. But this is still at the development stage. They use high pressure water hoses to remove unwanted growth of other seaweed (epiphytes).

Dr. Flower Msuya from Tanzania showed a summary of how seaweed cultivation has started and continued for the East African coast, with examples from Mauritius, Madagascar, Tanzania and Zanzibar course. The main problem to cope with is that they are now beginning to get problems with various diseases. There is much further research to do and a lot of mistakes to learn from. At the same time, a mini-symposium was held in the hall next to this, with the topic being diseases and parasites on seaweed. It’s a hot topic for the seaweed industry.

Presentations: Integrated aquaculture and introductions
In Australia, much yellowtail kingfish and tuna are farmed. At present, there is no cultured seaweed in Australia, so the researchers are now trying to find species suitable for cultivation along with fish farms in order to reduce emissions (IMTA, see previous posts). The species they are looking for are those that are good at taking up nitrogen from fish farms, but there should also be a market for the seaweed.

Kathryn Wiltshire from the University of Adelaide tested several species of red and brown seaweed to see which was best at taking up nitrogen and which grew fastest, in order to select species suitable for further experiments with the conditions that give the best performance.

Tom Schils from the University of Guam (you get extra points if you know where it is without looking it up) told us that coral reefs in Micronesia and the Pacific have very distinct algal communities, which are now threatened by introducing new varieties of these species bred for cultivation. A well-known example is the red alga Acanthophra spicifera that has taken over shallow waters on coral reefs around Hawaii.

Micronesia has a Biosecurity Plan, which seeks to identify and prevent threats to the marine environment, such as how to manage ballast water which is a great disseminator of species from one place to another.

Dr. Yang from China showed how the farming of the red alga Gracillaria spp. is along China’s 18,000-kilometer coastline and how China is now working to develop the use of integrated aquaculture. Between 1967-1980, 50-60% of China’s aquaculture consisted of cultured seaweed, mainly brown alga Saccharina japonica. Since then, the proportion of farmed fish, shrimp, crabs and clams increased. It leads to increased nitrogen load, and you need to cultivate more seaweed to not have problems with eutrophication.
The production of Gracillaria spp. is rising steadily, from 0.13 hectares in 2000 to 1,067 hectares in 2007. In 2011, the total cultivation area of Gracillaria was an astonishing 1,500 hectares!

International Seaweed Symposium – Day 3; A day off

It may seem strange that you need a day off after only two days, but it has been so intense that it was badly needed!

The BalticSeaWeed blog went up into the mountains and visited Bali’s botanical garden, where there were plenty of orchids and ferns.

Fern trees are just lovely!

Fern trees are just lovely!

We even got our guide to become totally confused when we stood and looked at a tree and photographed it for five minutes, instead of looking at the temple that we visited, or at least photographed the beautiful flowers. But the tree trunk was full of beautiful lichens, which actually consists of a fungus and an alga.

Beautiful lichens on tree trunk.

Beautiful lichens on tree trunk.