An American seaweed blog!

Internet is wonderful!

I was given a kelp granules shaker from my aunt after looking after her plants during her trip to the U.S. Near to addictive, sad was the day when my shaker was empty.

Lo and behold, today as I opened the blog, who has started following us but the producer of said granules! They even have their own seaweed blog, entitled Kelp: one of the worlds healthiest foods.

If you haven’t tried seaweed, but like salty snacks, I think you’ll like this.

My personal favourites are Wakame (Alaria esculenta) and Dulse (Palmara palmata). Excellent to nibble at during office hours or on a hike.

You’ll find their shop site amongst our Useful liks on the right hand side.

The wrack wall and how storms can tear seaweed from their rocks.

In the last posts, Lena has been reporting on all the interesting finds you can make on the beach after a storm. However, these haven’t been all that much about the different species of seaweed that gets washed ashore during strong winds. So, here is a small exposé of what she found after the storm Sven (Bodil in Denmark, Xaver in Germany).

In some bays on the west coast at Tjärnö, seaweed forms large beach walls whereas in other bays you will only find a few specimens of what is growing just a couple of meters off shore. Seaweed can also come entangled in ropes and lines from far away.
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A photo from a bay filled with seaweed forming thick carpets. Later in the year, in the summertime, they will have been decomposed and form a beach wall covered in lush green plants. Seaweed and algae make excellent compost due and was formerly gathered to fertilize the potato patches. If you find a bay full of seaweed you can collect some and put in your garden.
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On other shores, like in this photo, there is only some seaweed and the red alga Furcellaria lumbricalis in a band just by the water. This is the popular sandy beach at Saltö.
Higher up on the shore some distance away, i found a pile of rope and entangled algae. On closer examination, it turned out to be seaweed from quite some distance, maybe as far away as England.

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How can you tell that the seaweed is from far away and not just from next bay or further down the coast? If you look closely at the photo underneath, you’ll see some long, brown slightly knobbly bands, which are the reproductive organs (receptacles) of Himentalia elongata, which has never been found attached in Swedish waters. The nearest site is in Norway. In the pile there is also very large bladders of Ascophyllum nodosum and a form of bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus)with several bladders that is much more common in areas of higher salinity that at the Swedish coast.
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Those of you who look closely on the photograph will notice a red algae on the bottom right, like small, finely branched bushes attached to the Ascophyllum nodosum. This is one of many Polysiphonia species, and this particular species is commonly found growing on Ascophyllum nodosum and it is called Polysiphonia lanosa.
The wrack wall consists, as one might guess, mostly of wracks that have been washed ashore, both bladderwrack and serrated wrack (Fucus serratus). The smaller specimens were still attached to blue mussels (Mytilus edulis)and others had not attached hard enough to rock or boulder and had come loose.

Different sizes of wrack washed ashore, with accessories.

Different sizes of wrack washed ashore, with accessories.

Slightly larger specimens were washed ashore still attached to pebbles. A larger plant of seaweed is very firmly attached to the rock surface and you can lift the rock by holding the seaweed sometimes. It’s not until the wracks get really big that the pull of the wave manages to tear them loose from the rock or boulder to which they are attached. But, if you look closely on the bottom of the holdfast, there is a white calcareous layer. The wrack that has come loose with holdfast has once settled as a small germling on a crustose calcareous algae or a barnacle. So what has actually come loose by the wave force is not the seaweed holdfast, but the barnacle or calcareous alga that can no longer hold on to the rock surface.

sågtångsfäste

The photo shows a holdfast from a Fucus serratus with clearly visible white parts of a calcareous crustose alga.
nyårsskål för alger
And finally – a somewhat late toast for the new year and wishing you all a happy 2014 from the BalticSeaWeed blog.

Findings on the beach after the storm St Jude, 28th November

Storms are usually named in alphabetical order from the area where they begin. St. Jude was named in England but was re-named by SMHI (Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute) to Simone after the name of the day in the calendar (in Sweden, each day of the year has one or two names) that the storm reached the Swedish west coast. The weather was less severe than expected at Tjärnö, but still quite strong winds and high water levels. I could still see the traces of this a month later, as we took a walk around Saltö.

The clear evidence of how high the water has reached during the last storm can be detected by looking at the size of the beach cast wrack border, and how far up on the beach it is.

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This picture shows three clear rows of wrack borders where algae and eelgrass has been gathered by water movements.

During the storm Simone, a lot of algae was washed high up on shore. The material in the wrack border tells us that the entangled algae and some mussel shells were torn away from quite deep locations. Among the species of mussels that I found in the wrack border was the horse mussel (Modiolus moduolus) which looks a bit like the common blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) but is larger and lives at greater depth.

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So, how do I tell a Modiolus moduolus from a Mytilus edulis? If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see that the pointy part (the umbo) is not at the tip of the shell as it is on the Mytilus edulis?, but slightly higher up on the shell. The shell of the Modiolus moduolus is also slightly browner than that of the Mytilus edulis, which is typically blue, as the common name denotes.

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Other traces on the beach shows that part of the beach cast comes from Norway or even as faraway as from the British Isles, and has been transported all this way before ending up in this tangle of seaweed on Saltö. I found Ascophyllum nodosum, which also grows on the rocky shores around Saltö, but these specimens had much larger vesicles (floating bladders)than the ones at Saltö and were entangled together with reproductive parts of Himenthalia elongata, an algae species that is sometimes referred to as “sea spaghetti”.

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Amongst our other exciting finds were several unusually large cuttlefish skeletons. It looked like they had been floating for quite some time in the sea, as they had a lot of green algae growing on them. They are often used as a source of calcium for caged birds. In days of old they were called “whale fish scales”, which is a double fault since the whale is not a fish and hence does not have scales.

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There were also remnants of the summer’s fun and games. The lost bucket for catching crabs and a deflated ball. Or the almost ghostly rubber gloves in a bucket of frozen water, which looked like an art installation.

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It was a cold but sunny day in November that we made all these discoveries at Saltö, which is part of the Kosterhavet marine national park near the Tjärnö Marine Laboratory. It will be exciting to come back around the New Year and see what coming storms have brought us, and if the bucket with gloves or the ball are still there. Maybe there will be some new species of seaweed from a faraway place, brought here attached to a floating shoe, a log or some other flotsam.

Dive transect on the Swedish west coast

During the summer, the BalticSeaWeed blog did al ot of fieldwork, both at Askö on the east coast and Tjärnö on the west coast.

Among other things, we performed an inventory of algae populations along two transects (laid out measuring tape) outside Tjärnö on the salty west coast.

The scuba diver swims from the beach with a tape measure that has been attached at the waterline down to the depth where no more algae grow. Depending on water clarity, this may vary from a few meters to more than 20 meters depth.

Once the algae end, the diver takes out her slate (the single most important tool for any marine biologist) and begins by noting the depth and how much of the tape measure that’s been rolled out. Subsequently, the diver notes down all the algal species she sees and appreciates how much of them there are, on a 7-point scale (1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 75 and 100%).

When the diver has recorded all of this about the starting point, she swims slowly along the transect (tape measure) and continues to note the depth, length and species when it becomes a visible difference in the species that dominates, in order to produce a map of different “algal belts”.

Each “belt” is also sampled, using frames and bags. The diver uses a fixed size frame, which can be loose or attached to a bag, of a size usually 20×20 or 50×50 cm, depending on how many species and how much algae it is.

The diver puts the frame on the bottom, picks the largest algae by hand and puts them into the bag and then use a scraper to get off all the algae that grows within the frame and whisk them into the bag. It’s harder than it looks to work under water when everything is floating around.

For you to get an idea of how it works, Joakim Hansen, who helped out as dive buddy this summer, shared what he was filming with the BalticSeaWeed blog. Here’s how it looks when you scrape a frame.

Why, then have we done this, except that it’s very nice to go for a dive?

On these two sites, these inventories have been conducted for several years. In ecology, it is very important to have measurements that extend over a long period of time in order to see if there is a genuine change in the environment, or if it is just normal variations between years.

So during the cold, dark months, we will pick up our bags with frozen algae out of the freezer (there were over 30 of them), thaw them, sort them into piles according to species, dry and weigh and record in the protocols, thus getting the number of grams dry weight of each species that grew in each frame. By comparing our data with previous protocols, we can then see if it has become more or less of any species, and if any new species have appeared or if any have disappeared over the years.

Fragment experiment started in Roskilde, Denmark

At the end of November, I spent a week at Roskilde University in Denmark.
By invitation from fellow marine botanist professor Morten Foldager Pedersen, I went there to start up an experiment on Fucus radicans together with his PhD-student Tiina Salo.

Fucus radicans is named after its ability to reproduce asexually by fragmentation. Radicans is latin for “root-forming”, and although algae do not have roots, they form root-like attachments to the substrate, called rhizoids. So, when a small fragment falls off the mother algae, it can re-attach and form a new thallus, which is a genetically exact copy of its “mother”, i.e a clone.

A fragment of Fucus radicans has formed new rhizoids, attaching to the bottom of a petri dish.

A fragment of Fucus radicans has formed new rhizoids, attaching to the bottom of a petri dish.

To reproduce in this way is not very common within the Fucus-family. We do not know what favours this mode of reproduction, unlike the sexual reproduction where we know that salinity plays a major role, but light and temperature is also important.

So, in order to find out how Fucus radicans has the best non-sexual reproduction, we designed the experiment in Roskilde.

The parameters we have decided to try are light, temperature and water movement.

Together with Tiina, I spent the better part of the week in the basement of the Biology department, in a temperate chamber filled with algae, sea urchins, a hard-at-work master student and the all-time favourite combination of electricity and water.

 The light box is fitted over one of our white tanks.

The light box is fitted over one of our white tanks.

In order to decide if any of our tested parameters, alone or in any combination, contributes to the formation of rhizoids, you have to plan the setup so that the results can be testad statistically. This means that you have to think hard before you start the experiment, so that you can use the data to actually answer your initial question. I’m in luck. Tiina is a total wiz when it comes to statistics, and two heads are better than one.

 To the right can be seen the heater (square box) and the cooler (spiral).

To the right can be seen the heater (square box) and the cooler (spiral).

I had brought some Fucus radicans from some different localities with me to Roskilde. We picked off small fragments, no bigger than 1 cm, and placed them on tiles. Tiina bought them at Bauhaus and had had the same experience as me. Why is it considered strange to be more interested in the back of a tile?

 Four small fragments on a tile.

Four small fragments on a tile.

Finally, we were all set and could switch on the electricity again. We’ll leave it for approximately seven weeks, then I’ll go back and check the result. Meanwhile, wee keep our fingers crossed, hoping that the seaweed will cooperate and form nice new rhizoids. We’ll keep you updated.

 It is fun to work with seaweed!

It is fun to work with seaweed!

“Cinema Seaweed”

Here in Sweden, the frost is making everything sparkling white, and our noses and cheeks red. So what could make us warmer than some Cinema Seaweed? During summer and autumn, several seaweed movies have appeared on YouTube. This is a trend that we hope will last.

Here are links to nice seaweed movies that we have come across.

Nyköpings municipality, just south of Stockholm, has really got the hang of how to show itself from its best side!
Here you can see the two localities Långskär and West Kovik. The gurgling sound you hear is when the snorkel is filled with water.

From Skälderviken down south in Skåne county we can see that both bladderwrack and serrated wrack have recovered. It is also shown that 2013 was an incredibly successful year for the brown algae Dead Man’s Rope (Chorda filum) along most of the Swedish coast.
The movie is by Virtuerack. Virtue is a resource for schools, created by the Faculty of Science at Gothenburg University and The Maritime Museum & Aquarium in Gothenburg. They also have more movies where they show how cd-discs are being placed under a jetty in the sea and become habitat for several algae and animals.

Do you have any nice seaweed movies? Please let us know.

Fucus radicans movie (in Swedish)

Film time!
It’s been a long time since we had any movies posted on the blog.

At the Swedish site havet.nu is a nice movie (5.35 mins) on Fucus radicans. Our esteemed collegue professor Kerstin Johannesson explains why Fucus radicans is so interesting from an evolutionary perspective “Smaltång och drivkraften bakom uppkomsten av nya arter (Fucus radicans and the driving force behind the origin of new species). It is only available in Swedish, with no subtitles, unfortunately.

A small seaweed excursion in Galway

On Tuesday afternoon, we decided to take a walk along the Galway coast down to a pier leading out to a small island, where the city’s garbage treatment facility is located. We had heard rumours that there would be seaweed.
We were also told to nip into the building next to the Conference, where the Galway macroalgae research group works. We were totally awestruck when we came into the entrance and saw that this is the actual physical location of AlgaeBase. After the first shock we found the elevator and went up. Three surprised researchers looked up from their lunch. “You are looking for Mike” they concluded. “Aaahh nooo …” we replied and realized that they were already about to knock on Mike Guiry’s door (big grey door). Thankfully he was not inside (what would we have said to him?) so they showed us on a map where to best access the sea shore and find algae in the area. Thank you very much, it was most helpful!
After this near-celebrity experience we plodded on down to the hotel, changed into more suitable clothes and off we went.

There is something special about the sea air. It is richer in some way. As if it is thick with salt and sea. We came down to the pier and immediately saw that there was much seaweed! And blackberries! After a small snack we climbed down on the rocks and started picking seaweed and seashells. Nowadays, the limpet Patella vulgata is classified as extinct in Sweden. It used to be transported in currents to the Swedish west coast as larva and then grow up there but it never actually propagated in Sweden. Now, the currents have changed a bit and the larvae are not replenished anymore. Those that once existed has died out, so it’s been a long time since I found some limpet shells. Here, there were several! There were also large fine yellow shell of periwinkle Littorina obtusata (or fabalis …) who also went into my pocket.

But now for the seaweed. I briskly took off my socks and shoes, rolled up my pants and waded out a few feet to pick up a stone toped with Pelvetia caniculata, which I had not seen live before. New species! We also found lots of Ascophyllum nodosum which was much bigger and broader than at home. That’s Atlantic water for you! Here, the salinity is 35 psu, on the Swedish west coast is only around 28 psu.

My first Pelvetia caniculata

My first Pelvetia caniculata

The bladderwrack was beautiful, floating in huge, blow-rich drifts. How can you choose just a few pieces, when you want to take the whole bag full? Here, the bladders are not only one pair of bladders per year , but it really does live up to its name vesiculosus with repeated bladders along the branches. Amazing!

Bladder rich bladderwrack

Bladder rich bladderwrack

But, why are my shoes almost standing in the water? I left them on the top of the …. oh oh oh tidvatnet coming in at high speed! On with the socks and shoes quickly and onto the pier again! Whew, you’re not accustomed to such fluctuations when working in the Baltic Sea. We trudged back to the hotel again to put the seaweed in the press and wash the salt from the shells before we return to the conference.

Weed trip in Galway

Weed trip in Galway

Field season in full bloom

The days are just soaring by as the field season hits its high peak.

Helping us in this organized chaos is Frances Ratcliffe, volonteering marine biology student from UK. It’s such a help to have an extra pair of hands. We are very glad to have her with us.

Frances and bladderwrack!

Frances and bladderwrack!

The week before last was spent at the Askö laboratory, were we ran the Baltic Sea part of a two-station experiment wich will look closer on the effects of grazing snails on seaweed.

First, we put the seaweed (Fucus vesiculosus and Fucus radicans) grow a while without any grazers, in order to get undamaged tissue.

Seaweed growing

Seaweed growing

After a couple of weeks, we placed the tips in jars with gastropods (marine snails) and let them graze for a couple of days. We so hope that they were hugry and ate a lot, so that we can see the grazing damage under the microscope later on.

45 jars with gastropods and an even flow of water. Amazing what you can build with a pipe and some hose.

45 jars with gastropods and an even flow of water. Amazing what you can build with a pipe and some hose.

Once the seaweed was grazed, we collected some Ulva intestinalis, a green algae, and made it release its spores.

<img src="http://tangbloggen.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/entero1.jpg?w=300" alt="Ulva intestinalis spores makes the water go green.” width=”300″ height=”224″ class=”size-medium wp-image-910″ /> Ulva intestinalis spores makes the water go green.

What we hope to see is if the spores will be able to grow on the grazed surface of the seaweed.

<img src="http://tangbloggen.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/sdd201.jpg?w=300" alt="We have seeded the grazed seaweed by poruing spores of Ulva intestinalis in the water” width=”300″ height=”224″ class=”size-medium wp-image-920″ /> We have seeded the grazed seaweed by poruing spores of Ulva intestinalis in the water.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that it grows!

The week that was and this week, is spent at Tjärnö laboratory on the other side of Sweden, were we are running the same experiment, but in saltier water and with Ascophyllum nodosum instead of Fucus radicans and with other gastropods.

Our lives have been made so much easier thanks to Marit, who is doing her master thesis together with us. She has tended to our experiment so that we didn’t have to go back and forth between the coasts like crazy. Thank you Marit!
Meanwhile, she has also done an enormous fieldwork on a very interesting study on gastropods and seaweed, that we hope to write more about here on the BalticSeaWeedBlog.

Marit shows her disected gastropods.

Marit shows her disected gastropods.

it is always nice to meet and talk about seaweed. We had many nice discussions on this fascinating topic.

Frances, Marit and Lena discuss seaweed at Tjärnö Laboratory.

Frances, Marit and Lena discuss seaweed at Tjärnö Laboratory.

Seaweed course in Denmark

The week has been spent in Denmark, on a full Sunday to Sunday course to learn more about macroalgae.
With a schedule so full you can hardly fit it to a paper, the hopes and expectations to become a real seaweed guru are high.
There are 11 PhD students partaking, all from different countries!
The course is arranged by Aarhus University, as you can see in their newsletter (sorry, only in Danish).

Our first day of the course, we went out to collect macroalgae in the field. We started at the pier next to Ebeltoft harbour, where the sun shone and it was lee on the inside where we were working. I took this years “first swim without a drysuit in Nordic waters”. It was a refreshing 16 degrees Celsius and I was in the water for about 10 minutes, collecting material. Here there were four Fucus species growing: Fucus spiralis, Fucus vesiculosus, Fucus evanescens and Fucus serratus. Jackpot!

Lots of seaweed!

Lots of seaweed!

After a field lunch of sandwiches, we headed north, to Grenaa. Here, the Marine Home Guard and their boat took us out on Kattegat! What a luxury! This is a new collaboration between the Home Guard and Aarhus University, so the Danish TV was out and filmed us. Click here and fast forward to 1:19 into the clip and there we are.

Monday evening and Tuesday was spent going through the collected material to determine the different species and look at their different physiological structures.
On Wednesday, we tried to reproduce sugar kelp ( Saccharina latissima ) by getting them to release spores. It didn’t quite go as planned, so we took some good old bladderwrack and got it to release eggs and sperm instead.

On Thursday, we went to Algcenter Grenaa and had a look around. Pictures from our visit you can see the Algcenter website

Anette Bruhn show us how they cultivate sugarkelp at the Algcenter

Anette Bruhn show us how they cultivate sugarkelp at the Algcenter

We also got to visit the Kattegat Center, located just across the parking lot. This is one of Denmark’s many fine aquariums that have long been on my wish-to-see list. It was just as good, if not better, as I had expected. There was even an exhibition of algae and their importance. It is totally worth a visit!

Friday and Saturday were devoted to compiling and analyzing all of our data, and then present it in four groups according to various themes (Taxonomy, Monitoring, Light and Cultivation).

Danish seaweed; red, brown and grøn

Danish seaweed; red, brown and grøn