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The life and afterlife of bog-moss: why it matters

Monday 26 September 2016

Join us for the valedictory lecture of Professor Emeritus R.S. (‘Dicky’) Clymo

Wednesday 12th October 2016, 6.30pm
PP1, People’s Palace, Queen Mary University of London, London, E1 4NS

Lecture synopsis

In life, the bog moss (Sphagnum) covers about 3 per cent of the Earth’s land surface, and is far and away the most successful and important moss. Why? It flourishes on starvation rations of nitrogen and phosphorus, thrives with its feet in water, and makes that water acidic. This unique combination of abilities enables it to exclude most other plants.

In death, the moss decays unusually slowly and its remains are the main constituents of peat, which has been accumulating in the current interglacial period for 5,000 to 10,000 years.  There is about as much carbon locked up in peat as there is in the atmosphere. Peat forms about one-quarter of all the organic carbon on the Earth’s land surface (in trees, grasslands, soils, and peat). What happens as global temperatures rise is an important question.

Meet our professor

Professor Emeritus R.S. (‘Dicky’) Clymo was born in 1933 to Betty and Herbert Clymo (a GP, and a Welfare Officer). He began his education at the Quaker School in Saffron Walden, and after an interlude as a Forestry Commission labourer, he then went on to study at University College London for his first degree in Botany. This was followed by his PhD in ecology (Why is about a third of the British flora restricted to calcareous soils? Answer: the plant roots are sensitive to the tiny concentration of aluminium in acid soils).

After serving as a member of staff at UCL, he then spent 20 years at Westfield College, ending there as Professor and HoD for the move to Queen Mary (followed a few years later by the formal merger of the two institutions) where he served as Dean of Science and Head of Biological Sciences. Professor Clymo has been a cyclist in London for 40 years, and has continued his teaching and research throughout his career with a focus on bog-moss and peat.

Attendance is free but you must register in advance. There will also be a networking drinks reception to follow:

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