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 (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. Before arriving at the University of Auckland in 2010, 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.

Research | Current

I am an ecosystem scientist specialising in the cycling of carbon, nutrients 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 (in particular biogeochemcial cycles)
  • 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), modelling and remote sensing.

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


Ongoing projects include:

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

Swanson, A. C., Schwendenmann, L., Allen, M. F., Aronson, E. L., Artavia-Leon, A., Dierick, D., . . . Zelikova, T. J. (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. doi:10.1111/1365-2435.13319

Fernandez-Bou, A. S., Dierick, D., Swanson, A. C., Allen, M. F., Alvarado, A. G. F., Artavia-Leon, A., ... Schwendenmann, L., Harmon, T. C. (2019). The role of the ecosystem engineer, the leaf-cutter ant Atta cephalotes, on soil CO2 dynamics in a wet tropical rainforest. Journal of Geophysical Research - Biogeosciences 124(2), 260-273. doi:10.1029/2018JG004723


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

Schwendenmann, L., Pendall, E., Sanchez-Bragado, R., Kunert, N., & Hölscher, D. (2015). Tree water uptake in a tropical plantation varying in tree diversity: Interspecific differences, seasonal shifts and complementarity. Ecohydrology 8(1), 1-12. doi:10.1002/eco.1479

Yamamura, T., Schwendenmann, L., & Lear, G. (2013). Tree species identity has little impact on the structure of soil bacterial communities in a 10-year-old tropical tree plantation. Biology and Fertility of Soils 49(7), 819-828. doi:10.1007/s00374-013-0774-x


Effects of plant pathogens on biogeochemical cycling (kauri dieback, myrtle rust)

Schwendenmann L., Michalzik B. (2019) Dissolved and particulate carbon and nitrogen fluxes along a Phytophthora agathidicida infection gradient in a kauri (Agathis australis) dominated forest. Fungal Ecology 42, 100086. doi:10.1016/j.funeco.2019.08.005

Ecosystem processes in Phytophthora Taxon Agathis (PTA) affected kauri stands - Donald van der Westhuizen, MSc thesis, School of Environment, 2014


Temperate mangroves and ecosystem functioning, New Zealand

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 Ecosystems 29, 1466–1483. doi:10.1002/aqc.3146

Suyadi., Gao, J., Lundquist, C. J., & Schwendenmann, L. (2018). Characterizing landscape patterns in changing mangrove ecosystems at high , latitudes using spatial metrics. Estuariane, Coastal and Shelf Science 215, 1-10. doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2018.10.005


Hilltop to Oceans: processes of change and mitigating impacts



Past projects include:

Quantifying anthropogenic and biogenic CO₂ fluxes, Auckland

Weissert, L. F., Salmond, J. A., & Schwendenmann, L. (2017). Photosynthetic CO₂ uptake and carbon sequestration potential of deciduous and evergreen tree species in an urban environment. Urban Ecosystems 20(3), 663-674. doi:10.1007/s11252-016-0627-0

Weissert, L., Salmond, J., Turnbull, J., & Schwendenmann, L. (2016). Temporal variability in the sources and fluxes of CO₂ in a residential area in an evergreen subtropical city. Atmospheric Environment 143, 164-176. doi:10.1016/j.atmosenv.2016.08.044

Weissert, L., Salmond, J., & Schwendenmann, L. (2016). Variability of soil organic carbon stocks and soil CO₂ efflux across urban land use and soil cover types. Geoderma 271, 80-90. doi:10.1016/j.geoderma.2016.02.014


MSc/PhD topics:

Effects of plant pathogens on ecosystem functions. For information on a fully funded MSc scholarship (start July 2021) please contact me.

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:

Chunli Li (2020), Assistant Professor, State Key Laboratory of  Plateau Ecology and Agriculture, Qinghai University, China

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 101: Environment, Science and Management

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

ENVSCI 301: Environmental Science in Practice

ENVSCI 399: Capstone in Environmental Science 

EARTHSCI/GEOG 261: Climate and Society

ENVSCI 701: Research Practice in Environmental Sciences

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

ENVSCI 737: Applied Terrestrial Ecology



Postgraduate supervision

Current PhD students:

  • Tracey Godfery - Facing unfamiliar new biological threats: a risk assessment framework for Aotearoa (Supervisor)
  • Hoa Nguyen  - Pathogen impacts on ecosystem functions (Supervisor)
  • Julia Jakobsson - Organic matter cycling and greenhouse gas emisions from Hilltop to Ocean (Supervisor)
  • Mengjie Wei  - Processes driving coastal carbon storage and transformation (Supervisor)

Current Master students:

  • Siqi Yang (Masters of Environmental Science, 90 pt thesis) - Effect of kauri dieback on soil processes (Supervisor)
  • Hasib Deendost (Master of Environmental Science, 30 pt project) - Greenhouse gas emissions form artifical waterbodies (Supervisor)
  • Jaynie Yang (Masters of Environmental Science, 90 pt thesis) - Fine root characteristics in kauri dominated forests affected by dieback (Supervisor)
  • Weihao Hua (Masters of Enviornmental Science, 30 pt project) - Litter biomass in pathogen infected kauri forests (Supervisor) 
  • Alana Hall (MSc, Environmental Management) - Rongoā approaches to Myrtle Rust control (Co-supervisor)

Completed (since 2010):

  • Marley Ford, 2021 (Masters of Environmental Science, 90 pt thesis) - Mycorrhizal communities of Lophomyrtus bullata (Co-supervisor)
  • Hamish Young, 2021 (Masters of Environmental Science, 30 pt project) - Spatial variation of throughfall flux, pH, and conductivity under kauri trees infected with Phytophthora agathidicida (Supervisor)
  • Molly D'Ath, 2021 (Masters of Environmental Science, 90 pt thesis) - Spatial variability of soil characteristics across a restoration planting in Glorit, New Zealand (Supervisor)
  • James Kim, 2021 (Masters of Environmental Science, 90 pt thesis) - Public perceptions of mammalian pests, pest management and monitoring of ground-dwelling animals on Kawau Island, New Zealand (Co-supervisor)
  • Matthew Upton, 2021 (MSc, Environmental Science, 120 pt thesis) - Vegetation and soil development of restored freshwater wetlands in agricultural landscapes of northern New
    Zealand (Co-supervisor)
  • Dinusha Jayathilake, 2020 (PhD, Marine Science) - Using marine biome maps to expand marine reserve network (Co-supervisor)
  • 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)


2021-2025 Mercator Fellowship, German Research Foundation, Collaborative Research Centre 1076 AquaDiva, Friedrich-Schiller University Jena, Germany


Co-lead, Ngā Rākau Taketake, Risk Assessment/Ecosytem Impact

Areas of expertise

Biogeochemical cycles; ecosystem ecology; biodiversity and ecosystem functioning; 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

May 2020- June 2021 Chair of Postgraduate Research Comittee, School of Environment


Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Bulmer, R. H., Stephenson, F., Jones, H. F. E., Townsend, M., Hillman, J. R., Schwendenmann, L., & Lundquist, C. J. (2020). Blue Carbon Stocks and Cross-Habitat Subsidies. FRONTIERS IN MARINE SCIENCE, 710.3389/fmars.2020.00380
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Carolyn Lundquist, Jenny Hillman
  • Hamilton, D. J., Bulmer, R. H., Schwendenmann, L., & Lundquist, C. J. (2020). Nitrogen enrichment increases greenhouse gas emissions from emerged intertidal sandflats. Scientific reports, 10 (1)10.1038/s41598-020-62215-4
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Carolyn Lundquist
  • Suyadi, Gao, J., Lundquist, C. J., & Schwendenmann, L. (2020). Aboveground Carbon Stocks in Rapidly Expanding Mangroves in New Zealand: Regional Assessment and Economic Valuation of Blue Carbon. ESTUARIES AND COASTS, 43 (6), 1456-1469. 10.1007/s12237-020-00736-x
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Carolyn Lundquist
  • Amin, A., Zuecco, G., Geris, J., Schwendenmann, L., McDonnell, J. J., Borga, M., & Penna, D. (2020). Depth distribution of soil water sourced by plants at the global scale: A new direct inference approach. ECOHYDROLOGY, 13 (2)10.1002/eco.2177
  • Schwendenmann, L., & Michalzik, B. (2019). Dissolved and particulate carbon and nitrogen fluxes along a Phytophthora agathidicida infection gradient in a kauri (Agathis australis) dominated forest. FUNGAL ECOLOGY, 4210.1016/j.funeco.2019.08.005
  • Paolini, L., Schwendenmann, L. C., Araoz, E., & Powell, P. A. (2019). Decoupling of the urban vegetation productivity from climate. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 4410.1016/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 ECOSYSTEMS, 29 (9), 1466-1483. 10.1002/aqc.3146
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Carolyn Lundquist


Contact details

Primary office location

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

Web links