September 29, 2022, 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

NDG James Memorial Lecture

We are delighted to announce Professor Rob MacKenzie, Founding Director, Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BiFOR), as this year's NDG James Memorial Lecturer. Rob will talk about the extraordinary research being undertaken at the Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) facility, the only one of its kind in the Northern Hemisphere, in the historic surroundings of Trinity College, Oxford.

Levine Building, Trinity College Oxford, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3BH

The ‘cryptocurrencies’ of a UK woodland

in a 2050s atmosphere

with Professor Rob MacKenzie, Founding Director,

Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BiFOR)


Can forest carbon ‘banks’ save the world from climate change?

The land carbon sink is calculated to be the most important carbon cycle feedback to 21st century climate change. Forecasts of the sink are highly uncertain and Earth-system models of the process contain many ‘known unknowns’, especially concerning the exchange of carbon, water and nutrients belowground. These are the unseen but strongly felt ‘cryptocurrencies’ of the forest.

Nutritional constraints and environmental stress may soon limit the land sink, especially in mature forests, which make up a dominant part of the land carbon sink. This would mean that current climate projections and Net Zero plans are overly optimistic.

The Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) facility is the largest global change experiment in the world, the Large Hadron Collider of climate science. BIFoR FACE is set in UK broadleaf forest dominated by 175-year-old and 25 m tall oak trees interspersed with sycamore, hazel, hawthorn, and holly. CO2-enrichment, scheduled to run until 2026, commenced in spring 2017 and has performed very well to date. The whole canopy volume of three replicate 30m-diameter (0.07 ha) plots is immersed in air containing 150 ppm CO2 above current atmospheric levels. Three neighbouring plots act as controls. The whole forest system responds promptly to elevated CO2, effects cascading through the ecosystem patch via carbon, water, and nutrient-cycle cryptocurrencies.

Whether these signals will persist is, literally, the $50M question for BIFoR FACE and the trillion-dollar question for us all.


  • 18:00: Arrive, wine and canapes, tea and coffee (included in the ticket price)
  • 19:00 Lecture followed by questions
  • 20:00 Depart

Ticket price (including VAT)

  • RFS members: £20
  • Non-members: £25
  • Students: £10

This lecture is for anybody who has an interest in the health of our trees and woods, including woodland owners and managers, ecologists, students, researchers and academics. There are a limited number of tickets so please book early.

About NDG James

  • Jimmy James, as he was known, was one of the best known names in British private forestry.
    After being a lecturer in forestry at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, he became Bursar and Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford in 1950 and then Land Agent for Oxford University before being appointed land agent at the Clinton Devon Estates in 1961, a post he held until 1976.
  • He was President of the Land Agent’s Society (1957-58) and President of the Royal Forestry Society (RFS) (1962-64).
  • As President of the RFS he set up the Society’s examinations in arboriculture which continue today. He was awarded no less than four gold medals for his two professions – as land agent and forester – including the RFS Gold Medal for distinguished services to forestry in 1967. He was awarded the OBE for services to forestry.
  • Jimmy James was widely known in forestry circles for his many forestry books. Best known are the Forester’s Companion (1955), A Book of Trees (1973) and A History of English Forestry (1981).
  • In 2000 his sons Jimmy and Jeremy made a generous donation to the RFS to establish the NDG James Memorial Fund to promote the educational work of the Society.

To book your ticket, please click on the red “Book Now” button below.

Professor Rob MacKenzie PhD FRSC

Founding Director, Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR)

Since November 2013, Rob has been the inaugural Director of the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research. BIFoR hosts the largest climate change experiment: the Free-Air Carbon dioxide Enrichment (FACE) facility, investigating decadal (2017-2026) effects of elevated (+150 ppmv) CO2 on mature oak woodland. Rob also leads the highly multi- and interdisciplinary Forest Edge Doctoral Scholarship Programme funded by the Leverhulme Trust. He has served the Natural Environment Research Council through their Pool of Chairs (2010-2013), Strategic Programmes Advisory Group (2015-2019), Joint Capital Advisory Group (2017-2019), and now the NERC Advisory Network. He is Chair of the Trees and Woodlands Science Advisory Group of the Defra Nature for Climate Fund, Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee of Fund4Trees, and is a panel member of the Research Excellence Framework exercise of the Higher Education Funding Council for England.