Associate Professor Cate Macinnis-Ng

BSc (Hons I) PhD (UTS)

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Associate Professor


I am interested in plant responses to climatic conditions and right now, I'm particularly enthused about drought in New Zealand's native forests. I completed my undergraduate and PhD degrees in Sydney and then worked as a research fellow on several projects until mid 2010 when I moved to Auckland with my family. I had various roles in the School of Environment before joining the School of Biological Sciences as Lecturer in Ecology in February 2015. At the end of 2015, I was awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship by the Royal Society of New Zealand. My research interests are centred around understanding plant functional responses to environmental conditions. I have used measurement and modelling approaches to investigate the hourly, daily, seasonal and annual patterns in tree water use at leaf and stand scales. From January 2018, I will be a Principle Investigator in Te Pūnaha Matatini.

Research | Current

Current projects

Drought impacts on native vegetation

I was  awarded a Marsden Fast-Start grant in November 2012 to study drought impacts on native trees of New Zealand. I am using measurement and modelling approaches to assess the threat of drought to kauri (Agathis australis) and associated species.

In September 2015, I was awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship to develop this research further with the first forest throughfall exclusion experiment in New Zealand. This involves setting up drought plots in the field to simulate drought and measuring tree responses to dry soil conditions.

Carbon fluxes in native forests

I also recently completed a two year research fellowship funded by the Faculty Research Development Fund to quantify carbon cycling in kauri forests. The sampling period captured the wet summer of 2012 and the very dry summer of 2013 so the impact of water availability on the major fluxes of carbon is now being assessed. I am collaborating with Luitgard Schwendenmann on this project.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr Tara McAllister - TPM-funded project on enhancing VM in science

Dr Xiuhua Zhao - Water use and carbon uptake in ecosystems of NZ and China

Some media coverage

Impacts of drought on forests in Northland, Science Media Centre, 13th February 2020 

Mātauranga Māori and ecology working together to address conservation challenges, Stuff, 2nd December 2019

Kauri and climate change interview with Jesse Mulligan, 29th March 2018

Our tree climbing research, Short film by Aotearoa Science Agency, 7th April 2018

What climate change will do to our forests, Newsroom, 24th October 2017

Read steady learn, bFM on recent research findings 18th August 2016

Good Magazine piece on kauri ecosystem services

Kauri as a 'climate change canary', NZ Herald article on species influenced by climate change

Marsden Fund IAQ Blog celebrating 20 years of Marsden research.

How will kauri survive drought? One News video segment.

Giant kauri trees and climate change. Our Changing World podcast.

Teaching | Current

BIOSCI 394 Conservation Ecology

BIOSCI 205 Plant, Cell and Environment

Postgraduate supervision

Students and interns interested in plants and climate change can contact me for further information on available projects.

Current students


Ben Cranston Drought impacts on kauri forest

Ellen Hume Risk triage for regime shifts: managing climate change and other factors

Sarah Killick Interactive effects of drought and dieback on kauri (co-supervised with George Perry, School of Environment)

Daniel dela Torre Crop forecasting an modelling using remote sensing under different climate scenarios (co-supervised with Jay Gao, School of Environment)

Niger Sultana Fire and drought interactions (Co-supervised with Tiim Curran, Lincoln University)


Grace Jones Non-structural carbohydrates in drought and dieback affected kauri

Recently completed

Breanna Powers Ecosystem services and land-use and cover change modelling in multi-functional landscapes (co-supervised with George Perry, School of Environment)

Sridevi Ravi The role of nonstructural carbohydrates in drought and salinity tolerance of mangroves (co-supervised with Sebastian Leuzinger, AUT)

Julia Kaplick Tree-climate interactions in kauri forest PhD

Tynan Burkhardt Nocturnal transpiration in NZ native plants MSc

Kshama Awasthi Using remote sensing to detect drought impacts in native forests MSc


Councillor, Royal Society Te Apārangi (Constituent Organisation Representative) 2020-2022

President, New Zealand Ecological Society, 2018-19

Vice President, New Zealand Ecological Society, 2017

New Zealand Society of Plant Biologists Roger Slack Award, 2016

Rutherford Discovery Fellow, 2015

Early Career Research Excellence Award, Univeristy of Auckland, 2014


Principal Investigator, Te Pūnaha Matatini

Section Editor in Chief, Forests

Associate Editor, Journal of Applied Ecology

Associate Editor, American Journal of Botany

Editorial Board Member, Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B

Areas of expertise

Climate-vegetation interactions change as the climate changes. I am a plant ecophysiologist and ecohydrologist specialising in water and carbon fluxes of trees and other vegetation.

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.
  • Hartmann, H., Schuldt, B., Sanders, T. G. M., Macinnis-Ng, C., Boehmer, H. J., Allen, C. D., ... Medlyn, B. E. (2018). Monitoring global tree mortality patterns and trends. Report from the VW symposium 'Crossing scales and disciplines to identify global trends of tree mortality as indicators of forest health'. The New phytologist, 217 (3), 984-987. 10.1111/nph.14988
  • O'Brien MJ, Engelbrecht, B. M., Joswig, J., Pereyra, G., Schuldt, B., Jansen, S., ... Preisler, Y. (2017). A synthesis of tree functional traits related to drought-induced mortality in forests across climatic zones. Journal of Applied Ecology, 54 (6), 1669-1686. 10.1111/1365-2664.12874
  • Macinnis-Ng, C., Wyse, S. V., Webb, T., Taylor, D., & Schwendenmann, L. (2017). Sustained carbon uptake in a mixed age southern conifer forest. Trees: Structure and Function, 31 (3), 967-980. 10.1007/s00468-017-1521-y
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Luitgard Schwendenmann
  • Lorrey, A. M., Brookman, T. H., Evans, M. N., Fauchereau, N. C., Macinnis-Ng, C., Barbour, M. M., ... Horton, T. W. (2016). Stable oxygen isotope signatures of early season wood in New Zealand kauri (Agathis australis) tree rings: Prospects for palaeoclimate reconstruction. Dendrochronologia, 40, 50-63. 10.1016/j.dendro.2016.03.012
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Anthony Fowler
  • Schwendenmann, L., & Macinnis-Ng, C. (2016). Soil CO2 efflux in an old-growth southern conifer forest (Agathis australis) – magnitude, components and controls. SOIL, 2 (3), 403-419. 10.5194/soil-2-403-2016
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Luitgard Schwendenmann
  • Macinnis-Ng, C. M. O., Zeppel, M. J. B., Palmer, A. R., & Eamus, D. (2016). Seasonal variations in tree water use and physiology correlate with soil salinity and soil water content in remnant woodlands on saline soils. Journal of Arid Environments, 129, 102-110. 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2016.02.011
  • Macinnis-Ng, C., Wyse, S., Veale, A., Schwendenmann, L., & Clearwater, M. (2016). Sap flow of the southern conifer, Agathis australis during wet and dry summers. Trees: Structure and Function, 30 (1), 19-33. 10.1007/s00468-015-1164-9
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Luitgard Schwendenmann
  • Stanley, M. C., Beggs, J. R., Bassett, I. E., Burns, B. R., Dirks, K. N., Jones, D. N., ... Souter-Brown, G. (2015). Emerging threats in urban ecosystems: A horizon scanning exercise. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 13 (10), 553-560. 10.1890/150229
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Bruce Burns, Margaret Stanley, Jacqueline Beggs, Kim Dirks, Sam Trowsdale


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 1, Room 119
New Zealand

Social links

Web links