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Ellen SchagerströmForskare

Om mig

I divide my time 50/50 between Stockhol and Gothenburg universities, working within several projects.

At Stockholm university. my main part is with the National Marine Monitoring Program of Vegetated Bottoms. I annually take part in surveying the vegetation on shallow soft and hard bottoms of the Baltic Sea in the Gotland, Askö, Singö and Höga Kusten areas. I am also in charge of sorting and reporting the quantitative samples taken each year. This program is funded by HaV.

My research in Stockholm is focused on macroalga and their ecology, mainly within the relatively species poor ecosystem of the brackish Baltic Sea. I am currently coordinator of the international research group FunkVeg, which is part of the Baltic Bridge collaboration between Stockholm and Helsinki Universities. FunkVeg aims to determine the functional role of vegetation in the Baltic Sea, and is currently working on the distribution, origin and life-cycle of the little known free-living forms of bladderwrack. Within this collaboration, I am co-supervising a PhD student at Helsinki University, Roxana Preston, who is working with the genetic part of the study.

At Gothenburg University, my research area is aquaculture. I am part of SWEMARC, the Swedish Mariculture Research Center, and the SWEMARC related research project CIRKULÄR, which is developing IMTA (Integrated Multi Trophic Aquaculture) with a focus on low trophic, extractive species. My specialty and focus is breeding and rearing the native red sea cucumber Parastichopus tremulus, in order to use this species as a detritivor in an IMTA context. I also have an ecosystem restoration angle on my sea cucumber research. The sea cucumbers in the Gullmar Fjord have declined. My aim is to produce and re-stock this local population, in order to determine the importance of sea cucumbers in a fjord ecosystem.

You will find more about my science and seaweed related events on my blogs (in Swedish) or (in English).

I am happy to supervise BSc (kandidat) and MSc (master) projects in subjects relating to my own research fields. If you are interested in doing your thesis with me as a supervisor, please contact me well in advance and we'll book a first meeting! There are several fun and fieldwork-filled ideas that awaits an eager student.

Sub surface activities

I hold the professional diver certificates A40, the international IDSA level 1, and dive supervisor (DykL) A40, and am currently responsible for diving activities at the Baltic Sea Centre field station, the Askö Laboratory. When not working in the academic sector, I occasionally serve as an instructor for professional divers at YRGO dive school in Svanesund.



I urval från Stockholms universitets publikationsdatabas

  • Geographic variation in fitness-related traits of the bladderwrack Fucus vesiculosus along the Baltic Sea-North Sea salinity gradient

    2019. Francisco R. Barboza (et al.). Ecology and Evolution 9 (16), 9225-9238


    In the course of the ongoing global intensification and diversification of human pressures, the study of variation patterns of biological traits along environmental gradients can provide relevant information on the performance of species under shifting conditions. The pronounced salinity gradient, co-occurrence of multiple stressors, and accelerated rates of change make the Baltic Sea and its transition to North Sea a suitable region for this type of study. Focusing on the bladderwrack Fucus vesiculosus, one of the main foundation species on hard-bottoms of the Baltic Sea, we analyzed the phenotypic variation among populations occurring along 2,000 km of coasts subjected to salinities from 4 to >30 and a variety of other stressors. Morphological and biochemical traits, including palatability for grazers, were recorded at 20 stations along the Baltic Sea and four stations in the North Sea. We evaluated in a common modeling framework the relative contribution of multiple environmental drivers to the observed trait patterns. Salinity was the main and, in some cases, the only environmental driver of the geographic trait variation in F. vesiculosus. The decrease in salinity from North Sea to Baltic Sea stations was accompanied by a decline in thallus size, photosynthetic pigments, and energy storage compounds, and affected the interaction of the alga with herbivores and epibiota. For some traits, drivers that vary locally such as wave exposure, light availability or nutrient enrichment were also important. The strong genetic population structure in this macroalgae might play a role in the generation and maintenance of phenotypic patterns across geographic scales. In light of our results, the desalination process projected for the Baltic Sea could have detrimental impacts on F. vesiculosus in areas close to its tolerance limit, affecting ecosystem functions such as habitat formation, primary production, and food supply.

    Läs mer om Geographic variation in fitness-related traits of the bladderwrack Fucus vesiculosus along the Baltic Sea-North Sea salinity gradient
  • Fucus vesiculosus adapted to a life in the Baltic Sea

    2019. Lena Kautsky, Susanne Qvarfordt, Ellen Schagerström. Botanica Marina 62 (1), 17-30


    Fucus vesiculosus is common both on the tidal coasts of the North Atlantic and in the Baltic Sea, where it has adapted to low salinity and nontidal conditions over the last 7000 years. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, extensive declines of F. vesiculosus populations were reported in the Baltic Proper, mainly attributed to high nutrient loads. During the past 30-40 years, considerable efforts have been made to reduce nutrient runoff to coastal areas but few successful initiatives to restore F. vesiculosus populations have been performed. In this paper, we present how substratum manipulation, i.e. clean rocky surfaces, brushing rocks, Hildenbrandia rubra cover and different filamentous algae, as well as different algal exudates, affect the recruitment and survival of juvenile F.vesiculosus. Further, we show through a 5-year field experiment that it will take at least 4-5 years to reach reproductive age for F. vesiculosus in the Baltic Sea. We also present transplantation studies from two different areas, showing that epiphytic load, light, grazing and type of substratum are some of the factors that need to be taken into consideration in order to achieve successful restoration of F. vesiculosus.

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  • Interactive effects of temperature and light on reattachment success in the brown alga Fucus radicans

    2019. Ellen Schagerström, Tiina Salo. Botanica Marina 62 (1), 43-50


    Fucus radicans is an endemic habitat-forming brown macroalga in the Baltic Sea that commonly complements its sexual reproduction with asexual reproduction. Asexual reproduction in F. radicans takes place through formation of adventitious branches (hereafter fragments), but the exact mechanisms behind it remain unknown.

    We assessed experimentally the importance of two environmental factors determining the re-attachment success of F. radicans fragments. By combining different light conditions (daylength and irradiance; high or low light) and water temperature (+14°C and +4°C), we mimicked ambient light and temperature conditions of winter, spring/autumn and summer for F. radicans. Fragments were able to re-attach in all tested conditions. Temperature and light had an interactive impact on re-attachment: the combination of high temperature and high light level resulted in the highest re-attachment success, while light level had no effects on re-attachment success in cooler water temperature and the re-attachment success in high temperature under low light levels was very low.

    The results suggest that rhizoid formation, and thus re-attachment success, may depend on the net primary production (metabolic balance) of the fragment. However, whether the re-attachment and asexual reproduction success simply depends on photosynthetic capacity warrants further mechanistic studies. Understanding the mechanisms of asexual reproduction in F. radicans is important in order to assess the dispersal capacity of this foundation species.

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  • Macroscopic sexual dimorphism in Fucus radicans (Phaeophyceae) with implications for its reproductive ecology

    2016. Ellen Schagerström, Lena Kautsky. Botanica Marina 59 (6), 485-490


    Sexual dimorphism on a macroscopic scale is unusual within the Phaeophyceae. We report for the first time macroscopic sexual dimorphism in Fucus radicans. A set of morphological characters was measured on three dioecious Fucus species, F. radicans, Fucus serratus and Fucus vesiculosus, to determine if sexual dimorphism occurs in the endemic F. radicans in the Baltic Sea and if it also is found in the other fucoids. F. radicans was sampled from highly clonal populations of the Bothnian Sea and from populations in the Vainameri Sea where no clones have been found. In both locations, sexual dimorphism was recorded in receptacle size and weight in F. radicans. Also, the receptacle dry weight to wet weight ratio was higher in males than in females, showing that male receptacles have a lower water content than females. The dimorphism was more pronounced in the Bothnian Sea populations, where further differences between the sexes in thallus width and fertility index also were present. This has not been shown for any member of the genus Fucus before, but seems to be a species-specific character in F. radicans, as there were no differences between the sexes in either F. serratus or F. vesiculosus.

    Läs mer om Macroscopic sexual dimorphism in Fucus radicans (Phaeophyceae) with implications for its reproductive ecology
  • Despite marine traits, the endemic Fucus radicans (Phaeophyceae) is restricted to the brackish Baltic Sea

    2016. Ellen Schagerström, Lena Kautsky. European journal of phycology 51 (4), 378-386


    Many of the marine species that were introduced to the Baltic Sea during the Littorina stage (c. 8500-3000 years BP), e.g. Fucus vesiculosus and F. serratus, have adapted to the present low salinity. These marine species have gone from marine conditions into lower salinity environments. In this paper we ask why the recently discovered endemic brown alga Fucus radicans shows the opposite pattern. Fucus radicans is only present in the northern parts of the Baltic Sea, the low salinity Bothnian Sea (4-6 psu). Potentially, the fitness of F. radicans might be reduced in higher salinities if it is better adapted to brackish conditions. We hypothesize, however, that the southern distribution limit of F. radicans is set by biotic factors, e.g. competition with F. vesiculosus and higher grazing pressure by Idotea balthica and not by salinity. Our results show that the reproductive output of F. radicans is limited by low salinity (4 psu) but increases in higher salinities. However, the southern distribution limit, i.e. the northern Baltic Proper, is regulated by biotic factors, where the additive effects from shading by taller F. vesiculosus thalli and grazing on F. radicans by the isopod I. balthica limit the biomass production of F. radicans. We suggest that F. radicans still maintains marine traits due to its ability to propagate clonally and is restricted to the Bothnian Sea by interactions with F. vesiculosus and I. balthica. We also propose that increased precipitation due to climate change might affect the northern range limit and that the distribution of F. radicans could be expected to shift further south into the Baltic Proper.

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  • Complex spatial clonal structure in the macroalgae Fucus radicans with both sexual and asexual recruitment

    2015. Angelica Ardehed (et al.). Ecology and Evolution 5 (19), 4233-4245


    In dioecious species with both sexual and asexual reproduction, the spatial distribution of individual clones affects the potential for sexual reproduction and local adaptation. The seaweed Fucus radicans, endemic to the Baltic Sea, has separate sexes, but new attached thalli may also form asexually. We mapped the spatial distribution of clones (multilocus genotypes, MLGs) over macrogeographic (>500km) and microgeographic (<100m) scales in the Baltic Sea to assess the relationship between clonal spatial structure, sexual recruitment, and the potential for natural selection. Sexual recruitment was predominant in some areas, while in others asexual recruitment dominated. Where clones of both sexes were locally intermingled, sexual recruitment was nevertheless low. In some highly clonal populations, the sex ratio was strongly skewed due to dominance of one or a few clones of the same sex. The two largest clones (one female and one male) were distributed over 100-550km of coast and accompanied by small and local MLGs formed by somatic mutations and differing by 1-2 mutations from the large clones. Rare sexual events, occasional long-distance migration, and somatic mutations contribute new genotypic variation potentially available to natural selection. However, dominance of a few very large (and presumably old) clones over extensive spatial and temporal scales suggested that either these have superior traits or natural selection has only been marginally involved in the structuring of genotypes.

    Läs mer om Complex spatial clonal structure in the macroalgae Fucus radicans with both sexual and asexual recruitment
  • Divergence within and among Seaweed Siblings (Fucus vesiculosus and F. radicans) in the Baltic Sea

    2016. Angelica Ardehed (et al.). PLoS ONE 11 (8)


    Closely related taxa provide significant case studies for understanding evolution of new species but may simultaneously challenge species identification and definition. In the Baltic Sea, two dominant and perennial brown algae share a very recent ancestry. Fucus vesiculosus invaded this recently formed postglacial sea 8000 years ago and shortly thereafter Fucus radicans diverged from this lineage as an endemic species. In the Baltic Sea both species reproduce sexually but also recruit fully fertile new individuals by asexual fragmentation. Earlier studies have shown local differences in morphology and genetics between the two taxa in the northern and western Bothnian Sea, and around the island of Saaremaa in Estonia, but geographic patterns seemin conflict with a single origin of F. radicans. To investigate the relationship between northern and Estonian distributions, we analysed the genetic variation using 9 microsatellite loci in populations from eastern Bothnian Sea, Archipelago Sea and the Gulf of Finland. These populations are located in between earlier studied populations. However, instead of bridging the disparate genetic gap between N-W Bothnian Sea and Estonia, as expected from a simple isolation-by-distance model, the new populations substantially increased overall genetic diversity and showed to be strongly divergent from the two earlier analysed regions, showing signs of additional distinct populations. Contrasting earlier findings of increased asexual recruitment in low salinity in the Bothnian Sea, we found high levels of sexual reproduction in some of the Gulf of Finland populations that inhabit extremely low salinity. The new data generated in this study supports the earlier conclusion of two reproductively isolated but very closely related species. However, the new results also add considerable genetic and morphological complexity within species. This makes species separation at geographic scales more demanding and suggests a need for more comprehensive approaches to further disentangle the intriguing relationship and history of the Baltic Sea fucoids.

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  • Restaurering av blåstångssamhällen i Östersjön

    2020. Lena Kautsky, Susanne Qvarfordt, Ellen Schagerström.


    Handbokens syfte är att vara ett stöd inför planering och genomförande av projekt med avsikten att restaurera blåstångssamhällen i Östersjön. Alternativt, för att etablera ett blåstångssamhälle som en kompensationsåtgärd vid byggnationer och anläggningar i havet. En restaurering av ett blåstångssamhälle innebär att med insatta åtgärder hjälpa blåstång att återetablera sig i ett område där den tidigare funnits men försvunnit från på grund av mänsklig påverkan i form av till exempel övergödning och/eller föroreningar. En restaureringsåtgärd kan också innebära att den naturliga återhämtningen av ett blåstångssamhälle sker snabbare, dvs. att beståndets utbredning och/eller täthet ökar. Etablering av blåstångssamhällen som kompensationsåtgärd vid byggnationer i havet är högaktuellt i kustområden där exploateringstrycket är stort. Byggande av hamnar, vågbrytare och pirer skapar nya hårdbottnar som snabbt kan koloniseras av fintrådiga alger. Blåstången har sämre spridningsförmåga och kommer därmed att ha svårare att kolonisera nya ytor, vilket innebär att det kan ta lång tid innan ett tätt blåstångssamhälle etableras.

    I handboken presenteras metoder för att etablera blåstångsamhällen i miljöer där den försvunnit, för att påskynda blåstångens naturliga kolonisering och etablering där den minskat, samt som kompensationsåtgärd vid byggnationer i havet. Inför planering av restaurerings- eller kompensationsåtgärder krävs grundläggande kunskaper om naturliga begränsningar och biologiska förutsättningar för blåstångens utbredning tillsammans med kunskap om blåstångens biologi och funktion i Östersjöns ekosystem. Denna bakgrundsinformation presenteras i första delen av handboken. Metodiken för att genomföra en restaureringsåtgärd av ett blåstångsamhälle är en process i flera steg och beskrivs i andra delen av handboken. Här beskrivs de förstudier av miljöförhållanden och biologiska förutsättningar som måste finnas innan en åtgärd att restaurera/nyetablera ett blåstångssamhälle initieras. Handboken bygger på sammanställda data från forskningslitteratur och miljöövervakning om blåstångens ekosystem i Östersjön samt författarnas egna erfarenheter från fältförsök, tester och observationer.

    Handboken avser främst restaurering- och kompensationsåtgärder utifrån miljöförhållanden i Egentliga Östersjön, men bör kunna tillämpas i hela blåstångens utbredningsområde även i Bottenhavet med hänsyn till lokala förhållanden. Handboken är en handledning för att hjälpa utföraren att undvika kända problem vid återetablering av blåstång och ge konkreta förslag på metodik. Författarna vill dock påpeka att handboken inte garanterar att ett restaureringsförsök lyckas eftersom det fortfarande finns luckor i kunskapen om vad som krävs för att restaurera ett blåstångssamhälle. Arbetet med att genomföra fältstudier och underlag till handboken har finansierats av stiftelsen BalticSea2020 med stöd av Stockholms universitets Östersjöcentrum.

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Visa alla publikationer av Ellen Schagerström vid Stockholms universitet