Other publications in sections:



To see a PDF of an article (if there is one) click on Acrobat icon

Copyright restricts availability of some publications

I may be able to help if you email me. Click mail to to do that

For a print-friendly (PDF) full reference list click here ==> Acrobat icon

Sequence numbers in parentheses '(??)' refer to the full list

Comments precede the item they refer to.

Colours show my own rating:

Black X icon = routine; Pink X icon = OK; Green X icon = I'm pleased with this.


My PhD thesis work supported by a DSIR (Department of Scientific and Industrial Research) studentship. (DSIR soon after fragmented into specialist Research Councils.) About a third of the British flora is restricted to calcareous, or at least not acid, soils. Why? This work shows that for a sedge the reason is that cell division in root-tip cells is prevented at metaphase by concentrations of ionic aluminium in soil water as small as 1 ppm. Aluminium is the third most abundant element in the Earth's crust and at pH < 5 more than the critcal 1 ppm is almost universally found. At higher pH, a result of CaCO3 in the soil, the aluminium is precipitated. This root sensitivity in calcicole plants was found (by later workers) to be widespread.

Green X icon Acrobat icon ( 1) Clymo RS (1962). An experimental approach to part of the calcicole problem. Journal of Ecology 50: 707-731.

This article resulted from observations during the first few of 26 annual undergraduate field courses I ran at Blakeney Point, Norfolk. These were a direct descendant of those initiated and run by Professor FW Oliver of University College, London (a pioneer, though neglected, with AG Tansley of the science of plant ecology in Britain). The shingle bank moves in three main ways: 1. steady(ish) westward extension by longshore drift, 2. hooking round of the tip in big storms to form a recurved lateral bank, and 3. rare bodily landward rolling of the main bank in exceptional storms. This article was later reproduced in Leatherman SP (1981) Benchmark Papers in Geology 58: Overwash Processes 130-133.

Green X icon Acrobat icon ( 7) Clymo RS (1967). Movement of the main shingle bank at Blakeney Point, Norfolk. Transactions of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists Society 21: 3-6.

A companion to ( 7) above, uses the depth of saltmarsh mud accumulated since the last over-rolling of the main shingle bank to get the rate of mud depositon (and hence the approximate time it has taken for the salt marsh to grow). About 5 mm / year. Fits rather well with historic charts and maps.

Green X icon Acrobat icon ( 8) Clymo RS (1967). Accretion rate in two salt-marshes at Blakeney Point, Norfolk. Transactions of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists Society 21: 7-8.

A comparison of several numeric methods for ordinating the vegetation on a small peat bog. Includes an early example of the use on vegetation of NPMDS (non-parametric multi-dimenional scaling - a beautiful technique making big demands, for that time, on computing time and store). The data were collected on one of their annual excursions by the lightly organised Mires Research Group, later formalised within the British Ecological Society. It was near the end of the time when such voluntary excursions could be financed from the ordinary departmental grant.

Pink X icon Acrobat icon (19) Clymo RS (1980). A preliminary survey of Hummell Knowe Moss using a variety of numerical methods. Vegetatio 42: 129-148.

Uses combination of errors to assess overall reliability. Hydroxyappatite, and its ionicproduct, are important in freshwater chemistry.

Pink X icon Acrobat icon (28) Clymo RS Golterman HL (1985). Determination of the ionic product of hydroxy-apatite. Hydrobiologia 126: 31-34.

What do you do when Nature has revealed only patchy data?

Pink X icon Acrobat icon (37) Harrison SP, Clymo RS, Southall H (1988). Order amid sparse data: patterns of lake level changes in North America during the late Quaternary. Mathematical Geology 20: 167-188.

Help for long-time collaborators SP and JGD. Hornworts are a group of specialised mosses. The structures that produce their (reproductive) spores have tiny holes ('stomata') that allow the passage of gases into and out from the inside where the spores are forming. Rooted plants also have somata in their leaves, and these can be actively opened and closed to optimise the ingress of CO2 and minimise loss of water vapour. My collaborators had concluded that the hornwort stomata did not have active controls of the aperture, and were in disagreement with another group who thought the hornwort stomata were actively controlled. My colleagues then did an enormous experiment in which hornworts were given one of 5 treatments that would cause a rooted plants to close its stomata, in the expectation/hope that the hornworts would not respond. They measured about 9000 stomata. And then struggled with how to present the results, and invited me to help them. Because so many measurements had been made all the treatments had caused some significant small changes. But that is not th epoint. What they wanted to show was that the hornwort movements were much smaller than thaey would be in rooted plants. That was my part in the article (and a huge amount of data processing). It turned out really interesting as it was the opposite of the usual null hypothesis testing.

Green O icon Acrobat icon (74) Pressl S, Renzaglia KS, Clymo RS, Duckett JG (2018) Hornwort stomata do not respond actively to exogenous and environmental cues. Annals of Botany 122 :45-57

For decades I had been irritated, sometimes annoyed, at authors who reported, for example, a mean of 12.3456789 (that their computer had calculated for them) with a standard error of 11.52763. Most of these digits are just random junk. But how many digits are significant and justify reporting them? How does one decide? There were several 'rules of thumb' but I could find no evidence for any of them. The problem is basic and most scientists need the answer. So I began to try to produce evidence-based rules, some time in the 1980s. By the early 2000s I had composed an article, and began submitting it seriallky to journals with wide scope, Nature and variants, Science, BMJ, and so on. Seven in all. All made rapid rejections on the grounds that the subject was not in their scope. Non-sense of course: its scope was wider than theirs. I was doing many other things in parallel, so time passed. Eventually, late in 2018, I tried BMC Research Notes and they accepted it. Really helpful referee report. Problems because their Editorial Management System works only on Windows and Apple, while I run Linux. So, 30+ years after starting, here it is!

Green O icon Acrobat icon (75) Clymo RS (2019) How many of the digits in a mean of 12.3456789012 are worth reporting? BMC Research Notes https://doi.org/10.1186/s13104-019-4175-6 Back to top


Longish review including several small bits of research not published independently elsewhere.

Green X icon Acrobat icon (20) Clymo RS and Hayward PM (1982). The ecology of Sphagnum. The Ecology of Bryophytes. Ed Smith AJE. London, Chapman and Hall: 229-289.

Another longish review. Both this and (20) above seem to have been more frequently quoted than read.

Pink X icon Acrobat icon (22) Clymo RS (1983). Peat. Ecosystems of the World: Bog, Swamp, Moor and Fen, vol 4A. Ed. Gore AJP. Amsterdam, Elsevier: 159-224.

Part of a festschrift for Professor Herb Wright.

Pink X icon Acrobat icon (40) Clymo RS (1991). Peat growth. Quaternary Landscapes. Eds Shane LCK, Cushing EJ. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press: 76-112.


The IBP (International Biological Programme) commissioned numerous manuals and this book was one of them. Those working under the umbrella of the 'Freshwaters' section of the IBP needed to make chemical analyses of freshwaters, if only to set the context for biological observations. There was a need for a book that would explain not only HOW to make an analysis but the underlying chemistry (later expanded to include physics for temperature and light). HLG was the initiator and moving spirit in the writing. The book was succesful, going through several reprints and a revised second edition, see (18) below. It is still in use, though the making of chemical analyses has largely been mechanised as a service.The intention was that the book should be easily portable so it could be used for some procedures in the field. We had to argue strongly for a different size from all the other manuals, and this does disturb the uniformity of the series for anyone who has several (or all) the books. Utility trumps uniformity.

Pink X icon No pdf icon ( 9) Golterman HL, Clymo RS (1969). Methods for Chemical Analysis of Fresh Waters. Oxford, Blackwell Scientific Publications.

An expanded 2nd edition of (9)

Pink X icon No pdf icon

(18) Golterman HL, Clymo RS, Ohnstad MR (1978). Methods for physical and chemical analysis of fresh waters. Oxford, Blackwell Scientific Publications.

By the time I 'retired' (1999) I had accumulated, as referee or editor, a 'black book' of often repeated infelicities or plain errors in articles. It used to be expected that a research student's supervisor would teach the student the elements of scientific article writing. But that practice seemed to be becoming less common. So I wrote a series of short documents (1-3 pages) about some of the commonest problems, that could then be sent to aspiring authors when necessary. Somehow that grew into this book. Those who have read it have found it useful, but too few have done so, so the problems are still as common as ever. A pity.

Green O icon Acrobat icon (68) Clymo RS (2014) Reporting Research: a Biologist's Guide to Articles, Talks, and Posters. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

Back to top


A juvenile diversion. Peat borers are expensive, and all too easy to lose in the peat. People who have lost them tend to keep quiet about the incident, even if it wasn't their fault. The bit of apparatus described here did recover five lost borers, and failed with two more. So it justified itself. It was my first experience of the value of a University workshop that will take a sketch and a statement of purpose and help you to get something that works. Nowadays (2013) however many University workshops have closed and been replaced by commercial services. These require a properly drafted working drawing which, because the person needing the equipment does not know how best to engineer it, is likely to require later modification. In the end this is much more expensive than the old way.

Black X icon Acrobat icon ( 3) Clymo RS (1964). Apparatus for the recovery of lost peat-borers. New Phytologist 63: 426-427.

The early days of integrated circuits. This simple device relies on the detailed response of simple devices. It was used to make an instrument for measuring and recording water level.

Pink X icon Acrobat icon (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.

Getting near-undisturbed cores from the surface of a peat bog is not always easy, and may be near-impossible in fluid peat. This equipment was used to get cores, 30 cm diameter and 50 cm deep, from the surface of many sorts of peat bog.

Pink X icon Acrobat icon (34) Clymo RS (1988). A high-resolution sampler of surface peat. Functional Ecology 2: 425-431.

Back to top


'Nutrient' is a widely misunderstood and abused term, with a meaning close to that of 'limiting factor'. More than one factor at a time commonly limits a response. Article (51) began as a second year undergraduate lecture. Times have changed.

Green X icon Acrobat icon (51) Clymo RS (1995). Nutrients and limiting factors. Hydrobiologia 315: 15-24.

A predecessor of (51) above, with added comment about the misuse of 'mineral' for dissolved substances.

Pink X icon No pdf icon (11) Clymo RS (1971). Mineral nutrients - a terminological inexactitude? British Ecological Society Bulletin 2: 4.

Invited on my retiring from editing Journal of Ecology.

Pink X icon No pdf icon (23) Clymo RS (1983). A trio of troubles. British Ecological Society Bulletin 14: 150-155.

Invited contribution

Black X icon Acrobat icon (36) 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.

When 'acid rain' was a hot topic the CEGB (Central Electricity Generating Board), who were thought at the time to be the major producers of atmospheric acids falling on Britain, set up a large experiment at Loch Fleet to test the possibility of restoring a recently acidified lake. The main treatment was to spread large amounts of ground limestone, brought in by helicopter, on the catchment much of which was Sphagnum-covered. The procedure was effective in restoring trout to the lake after several years, but for Sphagnum the treatment was lethal. Contributions from six of us were assembled into a single chapter by the editor: the late Gwyneth Howells. Authors are in alphbetic order.

Pink X icon Acrobat icon (41) Clymo RS, Foster GN, MacKay J, Robertson J, Shore R, Skidmore DI. (1992). Terrestrial biology in limed catchments. Restoring Acid Waters: Loch Fleet 1984 - 1990. Eds. G. Howells and T. R. K. Dalziel. London and New York, Elsevier Applied Science: 331-361.

A solicited minor contribution to a report too long to reproduce.

Black X icon No pdf icon (44) 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.

A report to NERC from a working party they set up. The delivery of the report coincided with a major upheaval at NERC and nothing came of it. Included at the editors' request in this book.

Black X icon Acrobat icon (53) Clymo RS, Dawson FH, Bertram BCR, Burt TP, Gilman K, Ingram HAP, James R, Kirkby MJ, Lee JA, Maltby E, Wheeler BD, Wilcock D. (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.

'Inaugural' lectures, often given several years after appointment, are pretty common. The 'valedictory' lecture is less common. In the new commercial world of universities, most academics are only too glad to 'retire', or even to retire (no quotes). But I thought that my sort of varied approach to an important topic was becoming rarer, and so offered this valedictory lecture several years after being no longer paid for lecturing. The event went well, generally, with a packed lecture theatre. But the video recording used a system -- Q-Review -- that filled 2/3 of the recording screen with the presentation slide, but expected the speaker to stand at the lectern all the time. I did not know this, and did what scientists almost always do and moved to point to things on the slides, thus disappearing behind the slide as it appeared on the video recorder. Totally useless. That useless version was put on YouTube (part of the system) but was taken down a few days later because I had used a one-minute clip from a BBC Horizon program from 15 years before. The official system for getting permission to use the clip failed to work, and took months to rectify. So I gave the lecture again a few months later to a tiny audience and projecting onto a large TV screen.

Green O icon Acrobat icon (71) Clymo RS (2016) Valedictory Lecture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Bn7GiUcZDA

Back to top