Dr Sebastian Pfautsch


In a world with a growing population, changing climate and decreasing biodiversity, forests are under pressure to provide a wide range of services – delivering drinking water, clean air, timber, food, habitat for flora and fauna and numerous ‘soft values’ like space for recreation. As water is regarded the source of life, I am particularly passionate about research touching on basic and applied eco-hydrological research. My research contributes to our understanding of tree and forest function. It is important to me that my research results help to improve management practices impacting on ecosystems dominated by trees.

Research interests

My current focus of interest lies on water use and hydraulic architecture of trees, forest water use in connection with climate change and the security of urban water supply. I am further involved in research that investigates how water abstraction from ground water aquifers will affect ecosystem health and functioning.

My research involves largely field-based experiments in Ash-type and Peppermint forests, as well as alpine woodlands in southeastern Australia and dry tropical savannahs in northwestern Australia.

I am currently involved in the following projects:
Dynamics of woody vegetation and water in the central Pilbara to understand and manage for environmental change (ARC-Linkage Project).
Investigating effects of environmental change on the water transporting system within the genus Eucalyptus (PhD supervisor).


My working career began with completing an apprenticeship in interior design in 1996 in Frankfurt, Germany. Well, that was short-lived and after a couple of years I went back to what I really liked: being out in nature. In 1998 I took up studying forestry and forest science at the Albert-Ludwigs-University in Freiburg, Germany. During the course of my studies I established contacts to Australia and ended up doing my MS in science in Victoria, looking at water dependency of Nothofagus cunninghamii in the Yarra Ranges National Park, Australia. Extensive field-work lead to laboratory analyses using methods of dendrochronology and stable isotopes. A PhD followed in collaboration with Uni Freiburg and the Uni Melbourne, supervised by Prof. M.A. Adams and Prof. H. Rennenberg. Through the course of the PhD I investigated nitrogen and water cycles in Mountain Ash forests of southeastern Australia. I gained knowledge in amino acid analyses and metabolism, extensively used stable isotopes, worked on nitrogen fixation and nitrogen uptake in the field and in glasshouse trials. My PhD also involved modeling of forest water use from sap flow measurements. After successful completion of this part of my education in 2007, I took up a post-doc position with Prof. Adams, which I currently fill out.

Recent publications

  • Buckley, T.N., T.L. Turnbull, S. Pfautsch, M. Gharun and M.A. Adams. 2012. Differences in water use between mature and post-fire regrowthstands of subalpine Eucalyptus delegatensis R. Baker. Forest Ecology and Management, accepted
  • Pfautsch, S., C. Macfarlane, N. Ebdon and R. Meder. 2012. Assessing sapwood depth and wood properties in Eucalyptus and Corymbia spp. using visual methods and near infrared spectroscopy (NIR). Trees – Structure and Function, doi: 10.1007/s00468-011-0674-3.
  • Pfautsch, S., C. Keitel, T.L. Turnbull, M.J. Braimbridge, T.E. Wright, R.R. Simpson, J.A. O’Brien and M.A. Adams. 2011. Diurnal patterns of water use in Eucalyptus victrix indicate pronounced desiccation-rehydration cycles despite unlimited water supply. Tree Physiology, 31:1041-1051, doi:10/1093/treephys/tpr082.
  • Buckley, T.N., T.L. Turnbull, S. Pfautsch and M.A. Adams, M.A. 2011. Nocturnal sap flow in Australian subalpine forests and woodlands is indicative of nocturnal transpiration and negatively correlated with soil moisture. Ecology and Evolution 1:435-450, doi:10.1002/ece3.44.
  • Pfautsch, S., A. Gessler, H. Rennenberg, C.J. Weston and M.A. Adams. 2010. δ2H, δ13C and δ18O of ecosystem samples identify continental and local climatic influences on hydrology of eucalypt-Nothofagus ecosystems. Water Resources Research 46, W03510, doi:10.1029/2009WR007807.
  • Petit, G., S. Pfautsch, T. Anfodillo and M.A. Adams. 2010. The challenge of tree height in Eucalyptus regnans: when xylem tapering overcomes hydraulic resistance. New Phytologist 187: 1146–1153.
  • Pfautsch, S., T.M. Bleby, H. Rennenberg and M.A. Adams. 2010. Sap flow measurements reveal influence of temperature and stand structure on water use of Eucalyptus regnans forests. Forest Ecology and Management 259: 1190–1199.
  • Adams, M.A., J. Simon and S. Pfautsch. 2010. Woody legumes: a (re)view from the south (Invited Review). Tree Physiology 30: 1072–1082.
  • Pfautsch, S., H. Rennenberg, T.L. Bell and M.A. Adams. 2009. N-uptake of Eucalyptus regnans and Acacia spp. – preferences, resource-overlap and energetic costs. Tree Physiology 29: 389–399.
  • Pfautsch, S., A. Gessler, M.A. Adams and H. Rennenberg. 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 183: 1097–1113.