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
  • the linkages between 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:

Temperate mangroves and ecosystem functioning, New Zealand

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


Past projects:

Quantifying anthropogenic and biogenic CO2 fluxes, Auckland


MSc/PhD topics:

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

Urban forests and ecosystem processes

Effects of grazing and post-grazing restoration on soil carbon, Northland Region

Home gardening, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change mitigation


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:

  • Suyadi (School of Environment) - Mangrove cover change and carbon storage (Supervisor)
  • Xiaoqing Li (School of Environment) - Soil carbon chemistry in grasslands and forests (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)
  • Jianan Wang (School of Environment) - Estimation of vegetation carbon stocks in the urban-fringe using geospatial methods (Co-supervisor)
  • Dana Gardner (Civil and Environmental Engineering) - Dissolved organic matter transformations in Auckland’s drinking water reservoirs (Co-supervisor)

Current Master students:

  • Melanesia Boseren (MSc Environmental Science) - Soil CO2, CH4, and N2O fluxes across urban ecosystems (Supervisor)
  • Buya Morgen (MSc Environmental Science) - Traits and resource use of native understory trees in Auckland’s urban forests (Supervisor)
  • Jack Hamilton (MSc Marine Science) - Quantifying the influence of nutrient pollution on sediment properties and greenhouse gas emissions in NZ estuaries (Co-supervisor)

Completed (since 2010):

  • 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)


Contact details

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
New Zealand

Web links