Troy Baisden


Full Name: Troy Baisden

Position: Leader: Terrestrial Isotope Biogeochemistry

Contact details

Email: T.Baisden
Phone: +64-4-570 4653


1993: BA (High Honors), Earth Sciences; 2000: PhD (UC Berkeley), Soil Science

Areas of expertise

Geochemist: Sample processing
Radiocarbon: Sample processing

Current Projects I'm leading include:

I lead work on terrestrial isotope biogeochemistry at the National Isotope Centre.

Anthropocene Carbon Dynamics (an objective in the Global Change Through Time Programme). Over 8 years, this objective will develop contemporary data to improve understanding of soil processes used to underpin carbon accounting systems and quantify climate change impacts on productive and natural ecosystems.  Globally, soil contains more carbon than the atmosphere and vegetation combined, and remains a major uncertainty in carbon inventories and climate change feedbacks. Present work has a range of threads, but most focuses on the use of natural abundance radiocarbon as a tracer of carbon cycling on timescales of 5 or more years. A developing focus is the identification of molecular biomarkers appropriate for studying the preservation of carbon in NZ soils and sediments. The objective will also integrate knowledge to identify optimal opportunities for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and minimize risks to the NZ economy.

Was Collapse Inevitatible on Easter Island (Rapa Nui)? Reconstructing a Civilisation's Failure is a Marsden Programme. In his book "Collapse", Jared Diamond highlights the spectacular and mysterious collapse of civilisation on Easter Island. Diamond outlines a number of factors leading to success or failure of civilisations. We have identified that one of these factors - fragile soils - allows us to hypothesise that Easter Islanders would have overshot the carrying capacity of their landscape, reaching maximum population as soil nutrient depletion caused declining crop yields. We propose isotope, biomarker and DNA approaches to reconstruct the biogeochemistry of collapse and thereby test whether the timing of nutrient depletion can answer the question: "Why did they cut down the last tree?" Within dormant volcanic craters where settlement occurred, we will obtain carefully located cores to precisely resolve the timing of changes in plant, animal and human populations, as well as soil fertility. We will examine plant microfossils (e.g. pollen, starch grains), nitrogen isotopes, the DNA of native and introduced species, and steroid biomarkers derived from humans and animal faeces. Plant microfossils from surrounding soils will define the extent of cropping. Collectively, the analyses will enable bio-geochemical modeling to help predict the future of societies around the world where we are stressing carrying capacity of landscapes. (See press release, and listen to audio from Radio NZ).

The Isotopic Indicators of Land-to-Water Nitrogen Transfers (FRST Programme) focuses on the development of indicators to define the contribution of pastoral agriculture to declining water quality, and involves Lincoln University, Waikato University, AgResearch, and Environment Canada. The programme is aligned to focus on the science of developing isotopic indicators, with long-term delivery occurring through large ongoing programmes focused on land use and water quality within AgResearch, Landcare Research and the Sustainable Land Use Research Initiative (SLURI). Our proposed indicators are intended to:
1) Classify the vulnerability of farm units to ongoing losses of N
2) Identify the proportion of river nitrate loads from differing farm types
3) Quantify the proportion of nitrate lost during transport
These indicators recognise that multiple isotopes of N and oxygen (O) exist naturally, and the relative abundance of these isotopes records the sources of N and O, as well as the effects of biochemical processes occurring in soil and water.  Based on a decade of accumulated knowledge from the use of these isotopes overseas, we have designed a distinctive and globally significant project that will precisely define N and O isotope systematics for pasture systems in the absence of the pollution that obscures relationships in the Northern Hemisphere.

Selected publications

Baisden, W.T.; Manning, M.R. 2011 Editorial : the New Zealand carbon cycle : from regional budget to global cycle. Biogeochemistry, 104(1-3): 1-4; doi:10.1007/s10533-011-9579-x

Baisden, W.T.; Parfitt, R.L.; Ross, C.; Schipper, L.A.; Canessa, S. 2011 Evaluating 50 years of time-series soil radiocarbon data : towards routine calculation of robust C residence times. Biogeochemistry, Online first: doi:10.1007/s10533-011-9675-y

Feek, D.T.; Horrocks, M.; Baisden, W.T.; Flenley, J. 2011 The Mk II sampler : a device to collect sediment cores for analysis of uncontaminated DNA. Journal of paleolimnology, 45(1): 115-119; doi:10.1007/s10933-010-9474-9

Huang, Z.; Clinton, P.W.; Baisden, W.T.; Davis, M.R. 2011 Long-term nitrogen additions increased surface soil carbon concentration in a forest plantation despite elevated decomposition. Soil biology & biochemistry, 43(2): 302-307; doi:10.1016/j.soilbio.2010.10.015 [Link to electronic copy]

Menge, D.N.L.; Baisden, W.T.; Richardson, S.J.; Peltzer, D.A.; Barbour, M.M. 2011 Declining foliar and litter delta15N diverge from soil, epiphyte and input delta15N along a 120 000 yr temperate rainforest chronosequence. New phytologist, 190: 941-952

Warneke, S.; Schipper, L.A.; Bruesewitz, D.A.; Baisden, W.T. 2011 A comparison of different approaches for measuring denitrification rates in a nitrate removing bioreactor. Water research, 45(14): 4141-4151; doi:10.1016/j.watres.2011.05.027 [Link to electronic copy]

Baisden, W.T.; Parfitt, R.L.; Ross, C. 2010 Radiocarbon evidence for contrasting soil carbon dynamics in a andisol and non-andisol pasture soil comparison. Journal of integrated field science, 7: 59-64 [Link to electronic copy]

Gomez, B.; Baisden, W.T.; Rogers, K.M. 2010 Variable composition of particle-bound organic carbon in steepland river systems. Journal of geophysical research. Earth surface, F04006, doi:10.1029/2010JF001713 [Link to electronic copy]

Parfitt, R.L.; Ross, C.; Schipper, L.A.; Claydon, J.J.; Baisden, W.T.; Arnold, G. 2010 Correcting bulk density measurements made with driving hammer equipment. Geoderma, 157(1/2): 46-50; doi:10.1016/j.geoderma.2010.03.014 [Link to electronic copy]

Peltzer, D.A.; Wardle, D.A.; Allison, V.J.; Baisden, W.T.; Bardgett, R.D.; Chadwick, O.A.; Condron, L.M.; Parfitt, R.L.; Porder, S.; Richardson, S.J.; Turner, B.L.; Vitousek, P.M.; Walker, J.; Walker, L.R. 2010 Understanding ecosystem retrogression. Ecological monographs, 80(4): 509-529

Schipper, L.A.; Parfitt, R.L.; Ross, C.; Baisden, W.T.; Claydon, J.J.; Fraser, S. 2010 Gains and losses in C and N stocks of New Zealand pasture soils depend on land use. Agriculture, ecosystems and environment, 139(4): 611-617; doi:10.1016/j.agee.2010.10.005 [Link to electronic copy]

Stevenson, B.A.; Parfitt, R.L.; Schipper, L.A.; Baisden, W.T.; Mudge, P. 2010 Relationship between soil delta15N, C/N and N losses across land uses in New Zealand. Agriculture, ecosystems and environment, 139(4): 736-741; doi:10.1016/j.agee.2010.10.020 [Link to electronic copy]

Brown, M.; Whitehead, D.; Hunt, J.E.; Clough, T.J.; Arnold, G.C.; Baisden, W.T.; Sherlock, R.R. 2009 Regulation of soil surface respiration in a grazed pasture in New Zealand. Agricultural and forest meteorology, 149:

Neff, J.C.; Barger, N.N.; Baisden, W.T.; Fernandez, D.P.; Asner, G.P. 2009 Soil carbon storage responses to expanding pinyon-juniper populations in southern Utah. Ecological applications, 19(6):

Baisden, W.T.; Mudge, P.; Schipper, L.; Wells, N.; Clough, T.; Ghani, A.; Wassenaar, L.; Douence, C. 2011 Progress in the development of isotopic indicators for land-to-water nitrogen transfers in New Zealand. 5 p. IN: Currie, L.D.; Christensen, C.L. (eds) Adding to the knowledge base for the nutrient manager : 24th annual FLRC workshop, Massey University, February 2011. Palmerston North: Fertilizer and Lime Research Centre, Massey University. Occasional report / Fertiliser & Lime Research Centre, Massey University 24. [Link to electronic copy]

Wassenaar, L.; Baisden, W.T. 2011 Efficacy of BMPs to amend nitrate contamination in groundwater systems : a Canadian experience for comparison to New Zealand. 10 p. IN: Currie, L.D.; Christensen, C.L. (eds) Adding to the knowledge base for the nutrient manager : 24th annual FLRC workshop, Massey University, February 2011. Palmerston North: Fertilizer and Lime Research Centre, Massey University. Occasional report / Fertiliser & Lime Research Centre, Massey University 24. [Link to electronic copy]

Baisden, W.T.; Clough, T.; Schipper, L.; Stevenson, B.; Parfitt, R.L.; Wassenaar, L.; Ghani, A. 2009 Theory underpinning the Isotopic Indicators of Land-to-Water Nitrogen Transfers FRST programme. p. 271-276 IN: Currie, L.D.; Lindsay, C.L. (eds) Nutrient management in a rapidly changing world : proceedings of the 22nd Annual Workshop held by the Fertilizer and Lime Research Centre, Massey University, Palmerston North, 11th and 12th February, 2009. Palmerston North: Fertilizer and Lime Research Centre, Massey University. Occasional report / Fertilizer and Lime Research Centre, Massey University 22.

Hendy, J.; Kerr, S.; Baisden, W.T. 2008 Greenhouse gas emissions charges and credits on agricultural land : what can a model tell us? p. 198-209 IN: Lakshmi, L. (ed.) Clean development mechanism and law. 1st ed. Hyderabad, India: Icfai University Press

McGroddy, M.E.; Baisden, W.T.; Hedin, L.O. 2008 Stoichiometry of hydrological C, N and P losses across climate and geology : an environmental matrix approach across New Zealand primary forests. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 22: GB1026, doi:10.1029/2007GB003005 [link to electronic copy]
Parfitt, R.L.; Baisden, W.T.; Elliot, E.H. 2008 Phosphorus inputs and outputs for New Zealand in 2001 at national and regional scales. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 38(1): 37-50 [link to electronic copy]
Parfitt, R.L.; Baisden, W.T.; Schipper, L.A.; Mackay, A.D. 2008 Nitrogen inputs and outputs for New Zealand at national and regional scales : past, present and future scenarios. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 38(2): 71-87 [link to electronic copy]
Stroombergen, A.; Stojanovik, A.; Wratt, D.; Mullan, B.; Tait, A.; Woods, R.; Baisden, W.T.; Giltrap, D.; Lock, K.; Hendy, J.; Kerr, S. 2008 Costs and benefits of climate change and adaptation to climate change in New Zealand agriculture : what do we know so far?.Wellington: Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. 121 p. [link to electronic copy]
Baisden, W.T.; Parfitt, R.L. 2007 Bomb 14C enrichment indicates decadel C pool in deep soil? Biogeochemistry, 85(1): 59-68; doi:10.1007/s10533-007-9101-7. [link to electronic copy]
Carswell, F.E.; Greenaway, A.J.; Harmsworth, G.R.; Jollands, N.; Baisden, W.T. 2007 Reducing terrestrial greenhouse gas emissions : a human dimensions contribution.  International journal of sustainable development, 10(4): 294-318
Schipper, L.A.; Baisden, W.T.; Parfitt, R.L.; Ross, C.; Claydon, J.J.; Arnold, G. 2007 Large losses of soil C and N from soil profiles under pasture in New Zealand during the past 20 years. Global Change Biology, 13: 1138-1144; doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2007.01366.x.  [link to electronic copy]
Baisden, W.T. 2006 Agricultural and forest productivity for modelling policy scenarios : evaluating approaches for New Zealand greenhouse gas mitigation.Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 36(1): 1-15 [link to electronic copy]
Parfitt, R.L.; Schipper, L.A.; Baisden, W.T.; Elliott, A.H. 2006 Nitrogen inputs and outputs for New Zealand in 2001 at national and regional scales. Biogeochemistry, 80(1): 71-88. [link to electronic copy]
Scott, D.T.; Baisden, W.T.; Davies-Colley, R.; Gomez, B.; Hicks, D.M.; Page, M.J.; Preston, N.J.; Trustrum, N.A.; Tate, K.R.; Woods, R.A. 2006 Localized erosion affects national carbon budget.Geophysical research letters, 33: L01402, doi:10.1029/2005GL024644 [link to electronic copy]
Amundson, R.; Austin, A.T.; Schuur, E.A.G.; Yoo, K.; Matzek, V.; Kendall, C.; Uebersax, A.; Brenner, D.; Baisden, W.T. 2003 Global patterns of the isotopic composition of soil and plant nitrogen.Global biogeochemical cycles, 17(1): 1031, doi:10.1029/2002GB001903
Baisden, W.T.; Amundson, R. 2003 An analytical approach to ecosystem biogeochemistry modeling.Ecological applications, 13(3): 649-663
Baisden, W.T.; Amundson, R.; Brenner, D.L.; Cook, A.C.; Kendall, C.; Harden, J.W. 2002 A multiisotope C and N modeling analysis of soil organic matter turnover and transport as a function of soil depth in a California annual grassland soil chronosequence. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 16(4): 1135, doi:10.1029/2001GB001823
Baisden, W.T.; Amundson, R.; Cook, A.C.; Brenner, D.L. 2002 Turnover and storage of C and N in five density fractions from California annual grassland surface soils. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 16(4): 1117, doi:10.1029/2001GB001822
Brenner, D.L.; Amundson, R.; Baisden, W.T.; Kendall, C.; Harden, J. 2001 Soil N and 15N variation with time in a California annual grassland ecosystem. Geochimica et cosmochimica acta, 65(22): 4171-4186
Stern, L.A.; Amundson, R.; Baisden, W.T. 2001 Influence of soils on oxygen isotope ratio of atmospheric CO2. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 15(3): 753-759
Stern, L.; Baisden, W.T.; Amundson, R. 1999 Processes controlling the oxygen isotope ratio of soil CO2 : analytic and numerical modeling. Geochimica et cosmochimica acta, 63(6): 799-814

Internship, Student and Sabbatical Opportunities

I am pleased to be able to support a range of research opportunities related to global change, climate, land use with relevance to New Zealand's terrestrial ecosystems. I am able to offer opportunities to benefit from access to labortories, appropriate office space, and access to collaborations. Salary is less likely to be available. Suggested topics include but are not limited to:

1) The use of radiocarbon to determine the residence times of organic matter in soils and sediments

2) The use of incubation experiments to determine the bioavailability and reactivity of C in soils and sediments

3) Changes in the organic geochemistry of New Zealand soils over time (using archived samples), as a function of experimental treatments, or soil mineralogy.


Rafter Radiocarbon Lab
Associate Editor, Biogeochemistry.

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