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Associate Professor Luitgard Schwendenmann

BSc (Diplom FH) (University of Applied Sciences Bingen), MSc (University of Karlsruhe, KIT), Dr. rer. nat. (University of Göttingen)

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Associate Professor


I received a BSc in Environmental Science (University of Applied Sciences Bingen, Germany) where I studied the impact of logging on soil chemical and physical characteristics in the Peace River Lowland, Canada. For my MSc (Resources Engineering, University of Karlsruhe, Germany) I investigated sediment nutrient flow in a mangrove ecosystem in Brazil. For my PhD (Landscape Ecology, University of Goettingen, Germany) I studied the belowground carbon dynamics of a tropical forest in Costa Rica. After my PhD I was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Wyoming (USA) where I investigated the impact of land use change on soil carbon cycling and trace gas fluxes in Panama. I was a Research Fellow at the University of Goettingen, Germany, investigating the water uptake patterns in tree plantations and cacao agroforest systems in Panama and Indonesia. I moved to the University of Auckland in 2010. 

Research | Current

I am an ecosystem ecologist specialising in the cycling of carbon and water in the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum. Broadly my research group focuses on understanding:

  • the patterns of carbon and water dynamics in forest and native grassland ecosystems, coastal wetlands (mangroves) and urban areas
  • how abiotic and biotic drivers and responses to environmental changes (land-cover change, global warming) affect element cycling within and among ecosystems
  • how plant species identity and biodiversity influence ecosystem functions
  • plant-water interactions
  • the characteristics and drivers of the urban carbon cycle

We utilize a variety of approaches and tools to address these questions, including field-based empirical science, laboratory studies, stable isotope (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen), biogeochemistry, and remote sensing.

Carbon Dynamics |  Ecosystem Ecology | Global Change | Stable Isotope Ecology | Terrestrial Biogeochemistry | Tropical Forest Ecology | Urban Ecosystems


Ongoing projects include:

Hilltop to Oceans: processes of change and mitigating impacts

Impacts of leaf cutter ants on biogeochemical cycling in tropical forests, Costa Rica

Plant diversity and soil carbon dynamics in a tropical tree plantation, Panama

Ecological consequences of pathogens

Temperate mangroves and ecosystem functioning, New Zealand


Past projects:

Quantifying anthropogenic and biogenic CO2 fluxes, Auckland


MSc/PhD topics:

Effects of plant pathogens on ecosystem functions

Urban forests and ecosystem processes

Home gardening, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change mitigation

Mangrove expansion, blue carbon storage, biogeochemical processes and greenhouse gas emissions



Academic visitors:

Yuwu Li (2018), Associate Professor, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China

Leonardo Paolini (2017), Research Scientist, Urban Ecosystem Dynamics, Argentinean National Council for Research and Technology (CONICET) & Director of the Urban Ecosystems Research Center at Universidad del Norte Santo Tomas de Aquino, Argentina

Beate Michalzik (May-July 2015), Professor, Soil Science, Friedrich Schiller Universität Jena, Germany


Teaching | Current

The courses I contribute to are:

ENVSCI 201: Natural and Human Environmental Systems (Course co-ordinator)

ENVSCI 301: Environmental Science in Practice

EARTHSCI/GEOG 261: Climate, Hydrology and Biogeography

ENVSCI 701: Research Practice in Environmental Sciences

ENVSCI 733: Biodiversity Management and Conservation (Course co-ordinator)

ENVSCI 737: Applied Terrestrial Ecology

ENVSCI 711: Assessing Environmental Effects (Course co-ordinator)


Postgraduate supervision

Current PhD students:

  • Hoa Nguyen (School of Environment) - Pathogen impacts on ecosystem functions (Supervisor)
  • Julia Jakobsson (School of Environment) - Organic matter cycling and greenhouse gas emisions from Hilltop to Ocean (Supervisor)
  • Mengjie Wei (School of Environment) - Processes driving coastal carbon storage and transformation (Supervisor)
  • Dinusha Jayathilake (Institute of Marine Science) - Mapping marine biomes and estimating blue carbon (Co-supervisor)

Current Master students:

  • Molly D'Ath (Masters in Environmental Science) - Mapping soil organic carbon stocks in reforested areas (Supervisor)
  • James Kim (Masters in Environmental Science) - Abundance and spatial distribution of pest species on Kawau Island (Co-supervisor)
  • Matthew Upton (MSc, Environmental Science) - Assessing ecosystem functions in restored wetlands (Co-supervisor)

Completed (since 2010):

  • Melanesia Boseren, 2019 (MSc, Environmental Science) - Spatio-temporal variation in surface greenhouse gas fluxes in urban forests and grasslands, Auckland (Supervisor)
  • Xiaoqing Li, 2019 (PhD Environmental Science, School of Environment) - Soil organic carbon characteristics under different vegetation types in Otago, New Zealand (Supervisor)
  • Jack Hamilton, 2019 (MSc, Institute of Marine Science) - Investigating spatiotemporal variability and the impact of nitrogen enrichment on greenhouse gas fluxes from emerged, unvegetated intertidal
    flats (Co-supervisor)
  • Buya Morgen, 2019 (MSc, School of Environment) - Leaf traits of evergreen species in urban forests, Auckland, New Zealand (Supervisor)
  • Jianan Wang, 2019 (PhD Geography, School of Environment) - Estimation of vegetation carbon stocks in the urban environment using geo-informatics methods (Co-supervisor)
  • Suyadi, 2018 (PhD Environmental Science, School of Environment) - Spatial distribution of mangroves in the Auckland Region (1940-2014) and implications for aboveground carbon stocks (Supervisor)
  • Ben McLeod, 2018 (BSc Geographical Science, Free University of Berlin, Germany) - A biogeochemical study of a coastal wetland, Auckland (Co-supervisor)
  • Amber Simmonds, 2018 (MSc, School of Environment) - Structure and function of urban greenspaces in Auckland (Supervisor)
  • Mark Harvey, 2018 (PhD Geology, School of Environment) - Soil CO2 efflux in the Wairakei-Tauhara geothermal system (Co-supervisor)
  • Alicia Wong, 2017 (MSc, School of Environment) - Soil seedbank composition following fire disturbances (Co-supervisor)
  • Nikki Burrows, 2017 (MSc, School of Environment) - Greenhouse gas fluxes in riparian zones in agricultural systems (Co-supervisor)
  • Riki Taylor, 2017 (MSc, School of Environment) - Vegetation regeneration dynamics after fire (Co-supervisor)
  • Glauco Gavina, 2017 (MSc, Wageningen University, The Netherlands) - Spatial variability in soil CO2 efflux across three urban land use types (Co-supervisor)
  • Richard Bulmer, 2017 (PhD Marine Science, Institute of Marine Science) - Mangrove ecosystem dynamics and clearance impacts (Co-supervisor)
  • Lena Weissert, 2016 (PhD Environmental Science, School of Environment) - The potential of urban vegetation to mitigate local carbon dioxide emissions (Supervisor)
  • Sebastiaan Kraaijeveld, 2016 (MSc, Utrecht University, The Netherlands) - Effects of invasive predator species on forest structure and carbon storage in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park in New Zealand (Co-supervisor)
  • Michael Meredyth Young, 2016 (MSc, School of Environment) - Effects of leaf cutter ants on dissolved organic matter chemistry (Supervisor)
  • Minzi Liu, 2016 (MSc, School of Environment) - Soil organic carbon stocks and soil chemistry under tussock-grassland and pine plantation (Supervisor)
  • Christine Guarino, 2016 (MSc, School of Environment) -  Effectivity of Helianthus annuus and Medicago sativa as copper and chromium accumulator (Co-supervisor)
  • Donald van der Westhuizen, 2014 (MSc, School of Environment) – Ecosystem processes in Phytophthora Taxon Agathis (PTA) affected Kauri stands (Supervisor)
  • Sarah Wyse, 2013 (PhD, School of Biological Sciences) - Kauri as an ecosystem engineer (Co-supervisor)
  • Inge Althuizen, 2013 (MSc, Radboud University, Nijmengen, The Netherlands) - Carbon stocks and fluxes in a Phytophtora affected Kauri forest (Supervisor)
  • Eileen Nowland-Walker, 2013 (MSc, School of Biological Science) - Invertebrate communities in Kauri fine woody debris (Supervisor)
  • Prabhir Correa, 2013 (MSc, School of Environment) – Near surface carbon dioxide within the urban area of Auckland (Co-supervisor)
  • Tobias Francis, 2013 (MSc, School of Environment) - Soil gas geochemistry in the southern Hauraki Goldfield (Co-supervisor)
  • Florence Thame, 2012 (MSc, School of Marine Science) - Macrobenthos and carbon cycling in mangrove forests (Supervisor)
  • Bharath Thakur, 2012 (MSc, School of Environment) – Mangrove nutrition along environmental gradients, Firth of Thames (Supervisor)
  • Ning Wang, 2012 (MSc, School of Environment) - Soil organic carbon stocks in urban forests, Auckland (Supervisor)
  • Taiga Yamamura, 2011 (Honors, Lincoln University) - Effects of species identity and plant diversity on the function and activity of soil microbial communities in a tropical tree plantation (Co-supervisor)

Areas of expertise

Ecosystem ecology; carbon, nutrient and water cycling; biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, forest biogeochemistry, biosphere-atmosphere interactions, urban ecosystems, tropical ecology, environmental change, stable isotopes


Committees/Professional groups/Services

2015 - 2017 Postgraduate and Masters Advisor, Environmental Science

2012 - 2014 Head of Discipline, Environmental Science


Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Paolini, L., Schwendenmann, L., Aráoz E, & Powell, P. A. (2019). Decoupling of the urban vegetation productivity from climate. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 44.10.1016/j.ufug.2019.126428
  • Swanson, A. C., Schwendenmann, L., Allen, M. F., Aronson, E. L., Artavia-Leon, A., Dierick, D., ... Oberbauer, S. F. (2019). Welcome to the Atta world: A framework for understanding the effects of leaf-cutter ants on ecosystem functions. FUNCTIONAL ECOLOGY, 33 (8), 1386-1399. 10.1111/1365-2435.13319
  • Suyadi, Gao, J., Lundquist, C. J., & Schwendenmann, L. (2019). Land-based and climatic stressors of mangrove cover change in the Auckland Region, New Zealand. AQUATIC CONSERVATION-MARINE AND FRESHWATER ECOSYSTEMS10.1002/aqc.3146
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jay Gao, Carolyn Lundquist
  • Li, X., Vogeler, I., & Schwendenmann, L. (2019). Soil aggregation and soil fraction associated carbon under different vegetation types in a complex landscape. SOIL RESEARCH, 57 (3), 215-227. 10.1071/SR18193
  • Suyadi, Gao, J., Lundquist, C. J., & Schwendenmann, L. (2018). Characterizing landscape patterns in changing mangrove ecosystems at high , latitudes using spatial metrics. ESTUARINE COASTAL AND SHELF SCIENCE, 215, 1-10. 10.1016/j.ecss.2018.10.005
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jay Gao, Carolyn Lundquist
  • Li, X., Anderson, B. J., Vogeler, I., & Schwendenmann, L. (2018). Long-chain n-alkane and n-fatty acid characteristics in plants and soil - potential to separate plant growth forms, primary and secondary grasslands?. The Science of the total environment, 645, 1567-1578. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.07.105
  • Penna, D., Hopp, L., Scandellari, F., Allen, S. T., Benettin, P., Beyer, M., ... Schwendenmann, L. (2018). Ideas and perspectives: Tracing terrestrial ecosystem water fluxes using hydrogen and oxygen stable isotopes - challenges and opportunities from an interdisciplinary perspective. BIOGEOSCIENCES, 15 (21), 6399-6415. 10.5194/bg-15-6399-2018
  • Suyadi, Gao, J., Lundquist, C. J., & Schwendenmann, L. (2018). Sources of uncertainty in mapping temperate mangroves and their minimization using innovative methods. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 39 (1), 17-36. 10.1080/01431161.2017.1378455
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Carolyn Lundquist, Jay Gao


Contact details

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
Level 4, Room 425
New Zealand

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