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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Professor R S (Dicky) Clymo

R S (Dicky)



Research Interests:

  1. Physiology, and general and population ecology, of the bog-moss, Sphagnum.
    The bog-moss makes its environment acid (pH typically 3 to 4) by cation exchange of H+ produced by the plants with cations such as Na+, K+, Ca2+, and Mg2+ in rain.
    Sphagnum grows well with a surprisingly small supply of N and P which it gets from rain and dust (amounts which would be insufficient for most rooted plants are toxic to Sphagnum) Only a few specialised other species of plant can survive with Sphagnum. In the waterlogged conditions created by Sphagnum, decay is very slow and the dead remains of the plants accumulate as peat, of which Sphagnum is the main component.
    Arguably, there is more carbon in Sphagnum, dead and alive, than in any other plant genus.
    The structure of Sphagnum is unique, and its populations, which appear superficially to be stable, change much more rapidly than is generally realised. There is much to be discovered about the population dynamics.
  2. Ecology and the rate of growth of peatlands. This interest grew out of that in Sphagnum.
    Peatlands cover about 3% of the Earth’s land surface. There is more carbon in peat than in all tropical rain forests together, and nearly as much as in CO2 in the whole of the atmosphere.
    About 10 to 20% of the carbon fixed in photosynthesis survives decay before being buried, by continuing growth of the plants above, in the anoxic waterlogged peat proper. Decay does continue there although very slowly. What is the relative rate of peat accumulation and of the cumulative rate of decay? As the peat gets deeper does the cumulative rate of loss come to equal the rate of addition at the surface?
    These are important questions in the context of climate change, in the study of which peatlands have been neglected.
  3. A special part of interest (2) is in the production and movement of methane in the anoxic conditions in peat.
    In 1972 I made the very first measurements of the efflux of CO2 and CH4 from a peat bog. Since then hundreds of millions of such measurements have been made.
    Those first measurements showed that the efflux from wet hollows is greater than from dry hummocks, and that the efflux from wet hollows is erratic – phenomena (and specific values) repeatedly confirmed since. The peat sequesters carbon, thus tending to remove C (as CO2) from the air, but some of the fixed carbon is converted to CH4 which returns to the air and is a more effective ‘greenhose gas’, molecule for molecule, than is CO2.
    In the context of climate change, is the sequestering of carbon in peat more, or less, a contributor than the efflux of CH4? How effective is diffusion at removing the ultimately gaseous products of decay? At what rate is CH4 oxidised to CO2 during its movement up through the oxic layer at the surface of the peatland?
  4. I am too old to get grants any longer (quite right: it is the young who need the grants), so continue to work only on simple inexpensive areas among the interests above. But I am always happy to discuss possibilities without restriction.


  • Clymo RS (1962) An experimental approach to part of the calcicole problem. Journal of Ecology 50: 707-731.
  • Clymo RS (1963) Ion exchange in Sphagnum and its relation to bog ecology. Annals of Botany, New Series 27: 309-327.
  • Clymo RS (1964) Apparatus for the recovery of lost peat-borers. New Phytologist 63: 426-427.
  • Clymo RS (1964) The origin of acidity in Sphagnum bogs. Bryologist 67: 427-431.
  • Clymo RS (1966) Experiments on breakdown of Sphagnum in two bogs. Journal of Ecology 53: 747-758.
  • Clymo RS (1967) Control of cation concentrations, and in particular of pH in Sphagnum-dominated communities. Chemical Environment in the Aquatic Habitat. Eds H. L. Golterman and Clymo RS. Amsterdam, North Holland: 273-284.
  • Clymo RS (1967) Movement of the main shingle bank at Blakeney Point. Norfolk. Transactions of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists Society 21: 3-6. [Reproduced in: Leatherman SP (Ed) Benchmark Papers in Geology 58 (1981) Overwash Processes 130-133. Hutchinson Ross, Stroudsberg Pennsylvania]
  • Clymo RS (1967) Accretion rate in two salt-marshes at Blakeney Point, Norfolk. Transactions of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists Society 21: 7-8.
  • Golterman HL & Clymo RS (1969) Methods for Chemical Analysis of Fresh Waters. Oxford, Blackwell Scientific Publications.
    (10) Clymo RS (1970) The growth of Sphagnum: methods of measurement. Journal of Ecology 58: 13-40.
  • Clymo RS (1971) Mineral nutrients - a terminological inexactitude? British Ecological Society Bulletin 2: 4.
  • Clymo RS & Reddaway EJF (1971) Productivity of Sphagnum (bog-moss) and peat accumulation. Hydrobiologia 12: 181-192. [Note: this contains the first measurements of CO2 and CH4 efflux from a peatland, and may therefore be of some historic interest. The editor simply cut sections out without any changes to what was left. This mangled version is therefore unintelligible in places. The full, and lightly revised, version is in (13) below.]
  • Clymo RS & Reddaway EJF (1972) A tentative dry-matter balance sheet for the wet blanket bog on Burnt Hill, Moor House N.N.R. Aspects of the Ecology of the Northern Pennines, Occasional Papers No. 3, Institute of Terrestrial Ecology: 15.
  • Clymo RS (1973) The growth of Sphagnum: some effects of environment. Journal of Ecology 61: 849-869.
  • Clymo RS (1974) Growth rate of Sphagnum rubellum Wils. on Pennine blanket bog. Journal of Ecology 62: 191-196.
    (16) Clymo RS & Gregory SP (1975) Two cheap, temperature-stable, battery-operated devices producing a current linearly proportional to capacitance or resistance. Journal of applied Ecology 12: 577-586.
  • Clymo RS (1978) A model of peat-bog growth. Production Ecology of some British Moors and Montane Grasslands. Eds O. W. Heal and D. F. Perkins with W. M. Brown. Berlin, Springer: 187-223.
  • Golterman HL, Clymo RS, et al. (1978) Methods for physical and chemical analysis of fresh waters. Oxford, Blackwell Scientific Publications.
  • Clymo RS (1980) A preliminary survey of Hummell Knowe Moss using a variety of numerical methods. Vegetatio 42: 129-148.
  • Clymo RS & Hayward PM (1982) The ecology of Sphagnum. The Ecology of Bryophytes. Ed. AJE Smith. London, Chapman and Hall: 229-289.
  • Hayward PM & Clymo RS (1982) Profiles of water content and pore size in Sphagnum and peat, and their relation to peat bog ecology. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 215: 299-325.
  • Clymo RS (1983) Peat. Ecosystems of the World: Bog, Swamp, Moor and Fen, vol 4A. Ed. A. J. P. Gore. Amsterdam, Elsevier: 159-224.
  • Clymo RS (1983) A trio of troubles. British Ecological Society Bulletin 14: 150-155.
  • Hayward PM & Clymo RS (1983) The growth of Sphagnum: experiments on, and simulation of, some effects of light flux and water-table depth. Journal of Ecology 71: 845-863.
  • Clymo RS (1984) The limits to peat bog growth. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 303: 605-654.
  • Clymo RS (1984) Sphagnum-dominated peat-bog: a naturally acid ecosystem. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 305: 487-499.
  • Smith RIL & Clymo RS (1984) An extraordinary peat-forming community on the Falkland Islands. Nature, London 309: 617-620.
  • Clymo RS & Golterman HL (1985) Determination of the ionic product of hydroxy-apatite. Hydrobiologia 126: 31-34.
  • Clymo RS & Duckett JG (1986) Regeneration of Sphagnum. New Phytologist 102: 589-614.
  • Clymo RS & Mackay D (1987) Upwash and downwash of pollen and spores in the unsaturated layer of Sphagnum-dominated peat. New Phytologist 105: 175-183.
  • Clymo RS (1987) Interactions of Sphagnum with water and air. Effects of Atmospheric Pollutants on Forests, Wetlands and Agricultural Ecosystems. Eds Hutchinson TC & Meema KM. Berlin, Springer: 513-529.
  • Clymo RS (1987) The ecology of peatlands. Science Progress, Oxford 71: 593-614.
  • Clymo RS (1987) Rainwater-fed peat as a precursor of coal. Coal and Coal-Bearing Strata: Recent Advances. Ed. A. C. Scott. London, Geological Society: 17-23.
  • Clymo RS (1988) A high-resolution sampler of surface peat. Functional Ecology 2: 425-431.
  • Duckett JG & Clymo RS (1988) Regeneration of bog liverworts. New Phytologist 110: 119-127.
  • Golterman HL, Clymo RS et al. (1988) Methods of exploration and analysis of the environment of aquatic vegetation. Vegetation of Inland Waters. Ed. Symoens JJ. The Hague, Junk: 31-61.
  • Harrison SP, Clymo RS, et al. (1988) Order amid sparse data: patterns of lake level changes in North America during the late Quaternary. Mathematical Geology 20: 167-188.
  • Rydin H. & Clymo RS (1989) Transport of carbon and phosphorus compounds about Sphagnum. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 237: 63-84.
  • Clymo RS, Oldfield F et al. (1990) The record of atmospheric deposition on a rainwater-dependent peatland. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 327: 331-338.
  • Clymo RS (1991) Peat growth. Quaternary Landscapes. Eds Shane LCK & Cushing EJ. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press: 76-112.
  • Clymo RS, Foster GN et al. (1992) Terrestrial biology in limed catchments. Restoring Acid Waters: Loch Fleet 1984 - 1990. Eds. Howells G & Dalziel TRK. London and New York, Elsevier Applied Science: 331-361.
  • Clymo RS (1992) Productivity and decomposition of peatland ecosystems. Peatland Ecosystems and Man: An Impact Assessment. Eds O. M. Bragg, P. D. Hulme, H. A. P. Ingram and R. A. Robertson. Dundee, University of Dundee: 3-16.
  • Clymo RS (1992) Models of peat growth. Suo 43: 127-136.
  • Maltby E & Immerzi EP with Clymo RS (1992) The Global Status of Peatlands and their Role in the Carbon Cycle. London, Friends of the Earth: 145.
  • Tolonen K, Vasander H, Damman AWH & Clymo RS. (1992) Rate of apparent and true carbon accumulation in Boreal peatlands. 9th International Peat Congress, Uppsala, Sweden, International Peat Society.
  • Tolonen K, Vasander H, Damman AWH, & Clymo RS. (1992) Preliminary estimate of long-term carbon accumulation and loss in 25 Boreal peatlands. Suo 43: 277-280.
  • Warner BG, Clymo RS, et al. (1992) Implications of peat accumulation at Point Escuminac, New Brunswick. Quaternary Research 39: 245-248.
  • Clymo RS and Hargreaves K (1994) Methane emissions from UK agriculture, Forests, wetlands and wastes:natural wetlands. Watt Committee Report Number 28: Methane Emissions. Ed Williams A. London, Watt Committee on Energy: 111-121.
  • Bragg OM & Clymo RS (1995) Seven years of change following liming of Sphagnum communitiesin Sector VII of the Loch Fleet catchment. Chemistry and Ecology 9: 231-245.
  • Christen JA, Clymo RS et al. (1995) A Bayesian approach to the use of 14C dates in the estimation of the age of peat. Radiocarbon 37: 431-441.
  • Clymo RS (1995) Nutrients and limiting factors. Hydrobiologia 315: 15-24.
  • Clymo RS & Pearce DME (1995) Methane and carbon dioxide production in, transport through, and efflux from a peatland. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London A 350: 249-259.
  • Clymo RS, Dawson FH et al. (1995) Directions for research on wetlands in Britain. Hydrology and Hydrochemistry of British Wetlands. Eds Hughes J & Heathwaite L. Chichester, J. Wiley and Sons: 467-478.
  • Clymo RS (1996) The roles of Sphagnum in peatlands. Conserving peatlands. Eds  Parkyn LS, Stoneman RE & Ingram HAP. New York, CAB International: 95-102.
  • Clymo RS (1996) Assessing the accumulation of carbon in peatlands. Northern Peatlands in Global Climatic Change. Eds Laiho R, Laine J & Vasander H. Helsinki,  Academy of Finland: 207 - 212.
  • Clymo RS, Turunen J et al. (1998) Carbon accumulation in peatland. Oikos 81: 368-388.
  • Clymo RS (1998) Sphagnum, the peatland carbon economy, and climate change. Bryology for the Twenty-First Century. Eds Bates JW, Ashton NW & Duckett JG. Leeds, Maney Publishing Company and The British Bryological Society: 361-368.
  • Daulat WE & Clymo RS (1998) Effects of temperature and watertable on the efflux of methane from peatland surface cores. Atmospheric Environment 32: 3207-3218.
  • Stephen KD, Arah JRM et al. (1998) Root-mediated gas transport in peat determined by argon diffusion. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 30: 501-508.
  • Belyea LR & Clymo RS (1999) Do hollows control the rate of peat bog growth? Patterned mires and mire pools: origin and development, flora and fauna. Eds Standen V, Tallis JH & Meade R. London, British Ecological Society: 55-65.
  • Clymo RS (1999) Soiden ekologia: 10000 vuotta historian virtaa. Suo on kaunis. Y. Sepänmaa. Helsinki, Maahenki Oy: 32-42.
  • Belyea LR & Clymo RS (2001) Feedback control of the rate of peat formation. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 268: 1315-1321.
  • Pearce DME & Clymo RS (2001) Methane oxidation in a peatland core. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 15: 709-720.
  • Clymo RS (2004) Hydraulic conductivity of peat at Ellergower Moss, Scotland. Hydrological Processes 18: 261-274.
  • *Clymo RS & Bryant CL (2008) Diffusion and mass flow of dissolved carbon dioxide, methane, and dissolved organic carbon in a 7-m deep raised bog. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 72: 2048-2066.
  • *Clymo RS & Williams MMR (2012) Diffusion of gases dissolved in peat pore water. Mires and Peat 10(6): 1–10.
  • *Clymo RS (2012) How many digits in a mean are worth reporting? Unpublished (but worth reading).

* ‘.pdf’ available on the associated website

See R S Clymo's Google Scholar Citations

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