Doctor Sebastian Pfautsch

Sebastian Pfautsch Dr Pfautsch holds a Masters degree in Forestry and Forest Science. In 2007 he was awarded his PhD (summa cum laude) in Forest Ecology from the Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg, Germany, where he investigated water and nitrogen cycles in Melbourne's forested water catchments. In 2012 Dr Pfautsch took up his position at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment.

Areas Of Research/Teaching Expertise

Dr Pfautsch uses a range of techniques to elucidate how environmental change, particularly climatic extremes like heat waves and drought impact tree and forest functioning. He studies these effects at various spatial and temporal scales, from the cellular (wood anatomy) to whole organism (tree water use, gas exchange) and ecosystem level (ecohydrology, biogeochemical cycling).

Based on his education in forestry, he also works with the forest industry to assess how changes in water availability and temperature will affect the biological process of wood formation and hydraulic architecture of commercially important hard- and softwood species.

In addition, Dr Pfautsch is an expert in determining how artificial modification of groundwater sources influences ecosystem health. He is skilled in the use of stable isotopes, amino acids and chemical profiles of biological materials to investigate water and nutrient cycles. Various microscopic techniques are essential to his studies of wood anatomical traits.

Through his research Dr Pfautsch integrates climate, anthropogenic influences and natural environmental variation to advance our understanding of ecosystem functions in a changing world.

Dr Pfautsch develops and supervises projects for domestic and international undergraduate and postgraduate students. He started teaching plant physiology and forest ecology in 2003 at the Albert-Ludwigs-University. Since that time he continues to deliver lectures and practical training in tertiary education. Further, Dr Pfautsch delivers seminars to government agencies and industry partners.

Grants and Awards

  • 2015: An assessment of root to shoot balance in tree stock for landscape planting in Australia (Tjoelker, Aspinwall, Duursma, Pfautsch, Thompson); Research Grant, Horticulture Innovation Australia (HIA).
  • 2013: Investigating the evolution of drought resistance in Cypress Pines along a strong gradient of rainfall in the southern hemisphere (Pfautsch, Delzon); Scientific Mobility Award, Embassy of France in Australia and Australian Academy of Science. Water use strategies of Australian tree species to survive drought – a pulse labeling experiment with stable isotopes (Treydte, Pfautsch); Travel Grant, Swiss National Science Foundation.
  • 2012: Effects of environmental change on forested catchments in the Pacific region (Pfautsch); Fellowship, Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU)
  • 2009: Combining traditional and contemporary land management in remote Australian landscapes - fire, pests and productivity (Merchant, Pfautsch). Seeding Grant, University of Sydney's Institute for Sustainable Solutions
  • 2008: (1) Linking Water Use and Stable Isotope Signatures in Trees across Different Climatic Regions in Australia in Order to Predict Changes in Carbon Sequestration of Long-Lived Plants under a Changing Climate (Pfautsch, Gessler); Go8 and German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Travel Grant. (2) Ecological water requirements of the Yule River (Grierson, Adams, Pfautsch, McLean, Braimbridge, Bellhouse, Jones); Research Grant, Water Corporation of Western Australia. (3) Water use and requirements of Nothofagus spp. in Australia and Patagonia – effects of environmental change on a keystone forest species (Pfautsch); Maxwell Jacobs Award, Institute of Foresters of Australia (IFA).

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Blackman CJ, Pfautsch S, Choat B, Delzon S, Gleason SM, Duursma RA, (2016) 'Toward an index of desiccation time to tree mortality under drought', Plant Cell and Environment, vol.39, no.10, pp 2342-2345

Pfautsch S, Harbusch M, Wesolowski A, Smith R, Macfarlane C, Tjoelker MG, Reich PB, Adams MA, (2016) 'Climate determines vascular traits in the ecologically diverse genus Eucalyptus', Ecology Letters, vol.19, no.3, pp 240-248

Drake JE, Aspinwall MJ, Pfautsch S, Rymer PD, Reich PB, Smith RA, Crous KY, Tissue DT, Ghannoum O, Tjoelker MG, (2015) 'The capacity to cope with climate warming declines from temperate to tropical latitudes in two widely distributed Eucalyptus species', Global Change Biology, vol.21, no.1, pp 459-472

Gharun M, Turnbull TL, Pfautsch S, Adams MA, (2015) 'Stomatal structure and physiology do not explain differences in water use among montane eucalypts', Oecologia, vol.177, no.4, pp 1171-1181

Pfautsch S, Macfarlane C, (2015) 'Comment on Wang et al. "Quantifying sapwood width for three Australian native species using electrical resistivity tomography"', Ecohydrology, DOI: 10.1002/eco.1631

Larter M, Brodribb TJ, Pfautsch S, Burlett R, Cochard H, Delzon S, (2015) 'Extreme aridity pushes trees to their physical limits', Plant Physiology, vol.168, no.3, pp 804-807

Pfautsch S, Dodson W, Madden S, Adams MA, (2015) 'Assessing the impact of large-scale water table modifications on riparian trees: A case study from Australia', Ecohydrology, vol.8, no.4, pp 642-651

Pfautsch S, Hölttä T, Mencuccini M, (2015) 'Hydraulic functioning of tree stems - Fusing ray anatomy, radial transfer and capacitance', Tree Physiology, vol.35, no.7, pp 706-722

Pfautsch S, Renard J, Tjoelker MG, Salih A, (2015) 'Phloem as capacitor: Radial transfer of water into xylem of tree stems occurs via symplastic transport in ray parenchyma', Plant Physiology, vol.167, no.3, pp 963-971

Pfautsch S, Peri PL, Macfarlane C, van Ogtrop F, Adams MA, (2014) 'Relating water use to morphology and environment of Nothofagus from the world's most southern forests', Trees - Structure and Function, vol.28, no.1, pp 125-136

Wesolowski A, Adams MA, Pfautsch S, (2014) 'Insulation capacity of three bark types of temperate Eucalyptus species', Forest Ecology and Management, vol.313, pp 224-232

Pfautsch S, Adams MA, (2013) 'Water flux of Eucalyptus regnans: Defying summer drought and a record heatwave in 2009', Oecologia, vol.172, no.2, pp 317-326

Pfautsch S, Aspinwall M, Drake J, Choat B, Tissue D, Burykin T, Tjoelker M, (2013) 'Putting the puzzle together: Investigating hydraulic functioning and water transport at high spatial resolution in tall trees', Acta Horticulturae, vol.991, pp 245-252

Resco de Dios V, Díaz-Sierra R, Goulden ML, Barton CVM, Boer MM, Gessler A, Ferrio JP, Pfautsch S, Tissue DT, (2013) 'Woody clockworks: Circadian regulation of night-time water use in Eucalyptus globulus', New Phytologist, vol.200, no.3, pp 743-752

Buckley TN, Turnbull TL, Pfautsch S, Gharun M, Adams MA, (2012) 'Differences in water use between mature and post-fire regrowth stands of subalpine Eucalyptus delegatensis R. Baker', Forest Ecology and Management, vol.270, pp 1-10

Merchant A, Buckley TN, Pfautsch S, Turnbull TL, Samsa GA, Adams MA, (2012) 'Site-specific responses to short-term environmental variation are reflected in leaf and phloem-sap carbon isotopic abundance of field grown Eucalyptus globulus', Physiologia Plantarum, vol.146, no.4, pp 448-459

Pfautsch S, Macfarlane C, Ebdon N, Meder R, (2012) 'Assessing sapwood depth and wood properties in Eucalyptus and Corymbia spp. using visual methods and near infrared spectroscopy (NIR)', Trees - Structure and Function, vol.26, no.3, pp 963-974

Buckley TN, Turnbull TL, Pfautsch S, Adams MA, (2011) 'Nocturnal sap flow in Australian subalpine forests and woodlands is indicative of nocturnal transpiration and negatively correlated with soil moisture', Ecology and Evolution, vol.1, pp 435-450, doi:10.1002/ece3.44

Pfautsch S, Keitel C, Turnbull TL, Braimbridge MJ, Wright TE, Simpson RR, O'Brien JA, Adams MA, (2011) 'Diurnal patterns of water use in Eucalyptus victrix indicate pronounced desiccation-rehydration cycles despite unlimited water supply', Tree Physiology, vol.31, pp 1041-1051, doi:10/1093/treephys/tpr082

Adams MA, Simon J, Pfautsch S, (2010) 'Woody legumes: a (re)view from the south (Invited Review)', Tree Physiology, vol.30, pp 1072-1082

Petit G, Pfautsch S, Anfodillo T, Adams MA, (2010) 'The challenge of tree height in Eucalyptus regnans: when xylem tapering overcomes hydraulic resistance', New Phytologist, vol.187, pp 1146-1153

Pfautsch S, Bleby TM, Rennenberg H, Adams MA, (2010) 'Sap flow measurements reveal influence of temperature and stand structure on water use of Eucalyptus regnans forests', Forest Ecology and Management, vol.259, pp 1190-1199

Pfautsch S, Gessler A, Rennenberg H, Weston CJ, Adams MA, (2010) 'δ2H, δ13C and δ18O of ecosystem samples identify continental and local climatic influences on hydrology of eucalypt-Nothofagus ecosystems', Water Resources Research, vol.46, W03510, doi:10.1029/2009WR007807

Pfautsch S, Gessler A, Adams MA, Rennenberg H, (2009) 'Using amino-N pools and fluxes to identify contributions of understorey Acacia spp. to overstorey Eucalyptus regnans and stand N uptake in temperate Australia', New Phytologist, vol.183, pp 1097-1113

Pfautsch S, Rennenberg H, Bell TL, Adams MA, (2009) 'N-uptake of Eucalyptus regnans and Acacia spp. - preferences, resource-overlap and energetic costs', Tree Physiology, vol.29, pp 389-399

Books/Book Chapters

  • Pfautsch S, Bell TL, Gessler A, (2015) 'Uptake, transport and redistribution of amino acids in woody plants', in: Amino acids in higher plants. J.P.F. D'Mello (ed.), CAB International Publishing, 34 p
  • Pfautsch S, (2007) 'Ecophysiology of Eucalyptus regnans (F. Muell.) and associated Acacia spp.: cycles of water and nitrogen', Schriftenreihe der Professur für Baumphysiology, Band 22. Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg i. Br., Germany, 260 p.

Reports and Popular Articles

  • Pfautsch S, (2015) 'Trees can be at risk if mining alters groundwater levels' (opens in a new window), media release by Western Sydney University; published online 08 September, with follow-up articles in The Guardian (opens in a new window), The Australian, ABC Radio National, ARC Research Highlights.
  • Pfautsch S, (2015) 'You don't have to be barking to think trees are like us' (opens in a new window), The Conversation (Australia); published online 16 March 2015, >6300 readers by October 2015.
  • Pfautsch S, (2013) 'Forest research at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment', The Forrester 56: 21-22.
  • Pfautsch S, (2012) 'Native trees shrug off heatwaves' (opens in a new window), media release by Western Sydney University; published online 02 November, with follow-up on ABC Radio National, ECOS Magazine, Nature World News.
  • Henry J, Pfautsch S, Adams MA, (2011) 'Tales from the dark side – how nature complicates ecohydrological research', The Forrester 54: 6–7.
  • Pfautsch S, Adams MA, (2011) 'Assessment of tree water use in the Coolibah Flats, Karijini National Park, WA', Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, University of Sydney, Australia
  • Grierson PF, McLean E, Pfautsch S, Turnbull T, Keitel C, Adams MA (2010) 'Vegetation monitoring Yule bore field area, Port Hedland - Status report (draft)', report prepared for the Water Corporation, University of Western Australia, Perth
  • Pfautsch S, Keitel C, Adams MA (2009) 'Climate, Management and Ecosystem Interaction in the Pilbara – Tree water use at Millstream National Park, WA', Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, University of Sydney, Australia.

Other Duties

Dr Pfautsch is editor (Plant Water Relations, Tree Growth, Hydraulic Anatomy, Climate Extremes) for Plant Biology.

He regularly reviews manuscripts for Tree Physiology, Plant Biology, New Phytologist, Functional Ecology, Geographical Research Letters, European Journal of Forest Research, International Journal of Biometeorology, PLoS one, Trees - Structure and Function and other international journals.

Dr Pfautsch is a Discipline Representative (Environmental and Ecological Global Change) of the Australian Society of Plant Scientists (ASPS) and sits on the board of the NSW Division of the Institute of Foresters of Australia (IFA).

Since 2013 he takes pride to be academic representative of The Academy (Western Sydney University). He is an Honorary Associate of the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, University of Sydney, Australia.