Assoc. Prof. Christopher Lusk

Christopher Lusk

Associate Professor

Qualifications: PhD in Botany, Auckland

About Christopher

Papers Taught

Research Supervised


  • Kpodonu, Theodore (2016). Temporal variability in the water quality of a deep temperate oligotrophic lake.
  • Maurin, Kevin (in progress). Dating the evolution of the divaricate growth form in the New Zealand flora.
  • Rai, Bibishan (in progress).  Restoring the structure, stability and functioning of soil food webs in urban forests in New Zealand.

MSc (Research)

  • FitzPatrick, Dominic (2015). Tree species sorting along temperature gradients: How do frost-resistant traits influence competitive ability in the forest environment?
  • Wilson, Clara (2020). The influence of fire on vegetation dynamics of a New Zealand restiad bog.


  • Dickinson, Margaret (in progress).

Research Interests

I’m a plant ecologist who has been lucky enough to work in three different southern hemisphere countries: Chile, Australia and New Zealand. Since returning to these shores in 2011, my research has focused mostly on reconciling the quirks of New Zealand's strange flora and vegetation with ecological theory. My previous Marsden project (with Rob Smissen, Susan Wiser and Daniel Laughlin) used New Zealand’s celebrated divaricate plants as a model system for testing a new hypothesis about the evolution of anti-browsing defences. This hypothesis synthesizes the existing climatic and “moa browsing” hypotheses, proposing that anti-browsing defences are of most value on sites where climatic constraints prevent juvenile trees and shrubs from growing quickly out of the browse zone.

My new Marsden project (with Ian Dickie, Jenny Read and Frida Piper) brings mycorrhizal ecology to bear on the classic problem of “beech gaps” in south-temperate forests. We examine the interaction of ectomycorrhizal Nothofagus with the arbuscular mycorrhizal species that numerically dominate the tree assemblages of south-temperate forests in New Zealand, Chile and Tasmania. We’ll be using landslide chronosequences in one of our approaches to this problem – one of our study sites on Mt. Hauhungatahi is shown below.

Mt. Hauhungatahi

I have recently supervised students working on the evolution of divaricate plants, fire ecology of a restiad bog, dynamics of Nothofagus stands in the lowland North Island, the role of treefall gaps in the resilience of old-growth forests to deer browsing, belowground food-webs in New Zealand forests, and the impact of invasive mammals on seed production of large-fruited trees.

Recent Publications

  • Lusk, C. H. (2022). A field test of forest canopy structure measurements with the CanopyCapture smartphone application. PeerJ, 10, 15 pages. doi:10.7717/peerj.13450

  • Lusk, C. (2022). Editorial. New Zealand Journal of Botany, 1. doi:10.1080/0028825x.2022.2028860

  • Rowlingson, A., June, S. R., & Lusk, C. H. (2021). Dynamics of southern beech (Nothofagaceae) stands in the lowland North Island of New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany. doi:10.1080/0028825X.2021.1998143

  • Maurin, K. J. L., Smissen, R. D., & Lusk, C. H. (2021). A dated phylogeny shows Plio‐Pleistocene climates spurred evolution of anti‐browsing defences in the New Zealand flora. New Phytologist. doi:10.1111/nph.17766

Find more research publications by Christopher Lusk

Contact Details

Email: [email protected]
Room: D.1.08A
Phone: +64 7 838 4205