Associate Professor Sebastian Leuzinger

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Head of Applied Ecology

Phone: 921 9999 ext. 6944


Physical Address:

Institute for Applied Ecology New Zealand

School of Science

Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences

WU Block, WU114
46 Wakefield Street
Auckland City

Postal Address:
Private Bag 92006
Auckland 1142
New Zealand
(Mail No C-44)

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  • PhD in Plant Ecology, University of Basel, 2006
  • MSc in Statistics, University of Neuchâtel, 2005
  • BSc(HONS) Coral reef ecology, James Cook University, Townsville, 2001

Memberships and Affiliations:

  • Associate editor, Frontiers in Functional Plant Ecology
  • Steering committee member iLEAPS, integrated Land Ecosystem Atmosphere-Processes Study
  • Board of reviewers, Tree Physiology
  • Member of the Ecological  Society of America
  • Member of Intecol, International Association for Ecology


I have studied biology and statistics at the universities of Basel and Neuchâtel, Switzerland. I also undertook an Honours thesis in coral reef ecology at James Cook University, Townsville, where I also gained my qualifications as a dive instructor. After working for one year as a Science teacher on a superyacht, I have returned to academia, working under the supervision of Christian Körner at the university of Basel, where I completed my PhD in 2006 on the physiological responses of mature forest trees to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide. Six years of post-doctoral studies  at the University of Basel (2 years) and ETH Zurich (4 years) followed. I have been at AUT as a Senior Lecturer since June 2012, and as an Associate professor since 2016.

Teaching Areas:

  • Biological Sampling and Interpretation
  • Plant Ecology
  • Scientific Research
  • Research Techniques
  • Global Change Biology (postgraduate)
  • Pacific Island Ecology

Research Areas:

  • Plant Ecology
  • Plant Ecophysiology
  • Meta analysis of global change experiments
  • Free Air CO2 Enrichment experiments
  • Warming experiments
  • Drought experiments
  • The global carbon and water cycles and their interactions
  • Aquatic Botany

Research Summary:

I have worked on a large range of ecological topics both in marine and terrestrial environments, using a variety of experimental and computational methods. My original background is in marine ecology, but I have mainly worked in terrestrial environments in the past fifteen years. I am interested in fundamental ecological questions such as:
  • What limits plant growth in various ecosystems?
  • How do global changes impact on ecosystems, particularly plants?
  • How do the global carbon and water cycles interact via vegetation cover?
  • How can meta-analysis and ‘pattern analysis’ help to understand global change impacts on our ecosystems?
  • How can we model plant growth to predict changes in the future carbon cycle?
  • How do trees transport water? How can we measure it?
  • How do trees die under drought?
  • Why do organisms pursue a given resource allocation strategy?

Current Research Projects:

  • The life of a leafless kauri stump: the role of root grafts in tree water relations
  • The ecophysiology of the grey mangrove Avicennia marina
  • Plant growth: what is it? How do we measure it? Why?
  • Sink vs. source limitation in global vegetation models
  • The timing of rainfall events and its role under elevated CO2
  • Grow fast, die young: the consequences for global carbon stocks
  • New ways of measuring sap flow in trees, how can we use electropotential signals?


Together with a team of researchers, I will be organising the 2021 iLEAPS Science conference in Auckland, I am looking forward to this exciting opportunity to bring researchers in my field to a large conference in Auckland!


Please see my google scholar profile

Selected recent publications:

  • Hilty, J, Pook C, Leuzinger S (2018) Water relations determine short time leaf growth patterns in the mangrove Avicennia marina (Forssk.) Vierh. Plant, Cell and Environment. doi: 10.1111/pce.13435
  • Barraclough AD, Zweifel R, Cusens, J, Leuzinger S (2018) Daytime stem swelling and seasonal reversal in the peristaltic depletion of stored water along the stem of Avicennia marina (Forssk.) Vierh. Tree Physiology. doi: 10.1093/treephys/tpy021
  • Fatichi S, Pappas, C, Zscheischler J, Leuzinger S (2018). Modelling carbon sources and sinks in terrestrial ecosystems. Tansley lecture, New Phytologist, in press
  • Bader MKF, Mildner M, Baumann C, Leuzinger S, Körner C (2016) Photosynthetic enhancement and diurnal stem and soil carbon fluxes in a mature Norway spruce stand under elevated CO2. Environmental and Experimental Botany 124:110-119.
  • Fatichi S, Leuzinger S, Paschalis A, Langley J A, Donnellan Barraclough, A, & Hovenden, M J (2016). Partitioning direct and indirect effects reveals the response of water-limited ecosystems to elevated CO2.. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. doi:10.1073/pnas.1605036113


  • 2014 Vice Chancellor Awards, Emerging Researcher ($12,000)