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In the Fight for Global Biodiversity


Christian Hof is head of the new Chair of Global Change Ecology at the University of Würzburg. His research focuses on how climate change and human activities affect species and biodiversity.

New at the Faculty of Biology: Christian Hof, Chair of Global Change Ecology. (Image: Hofmann/JMU)

Natural habitats are under threat worldwide: agriculture is turning diverse nature into monocultures, urban development is destroying meadows and forests, and global warming is driving countless animal and plant species out of their natural habitats. „The fact that biodiversity is in such a poor state also has consequences for us humans“, says Professor Christian Hof, Chair of Global Change Ecology at the University of Würzburg (JMU).

Many ecosystem functions are vital for our survival: fertile soils for food production, intact forests for clean air and insects for pollinating plants. Since September 2023, the biologist has been researching in Würzburg how climate change, land use and other man-made environmental changes affect animal species and biodiversity - and how habitats can be protected.

Tension Between Climate Protection and Nature Conservation

An important goal of Hof's research is to develop measures that reconcile climate protection and nature conservation. Today, there are still frequent conflicts between the two, for example in the production of renewable energy: “Sustainable energy production is an important element in the fight against climate change. However, large-scale projects such as wind farms and solar power plants are sometimes associated with the destruction of natural habitats, thus harming the local flora and fauna. That's why clever solutions are needed, such as using solar panels that are mounted in such a way that they leave enough light and space for diverse flora and fauna on the ground.“

Hof's new Master's module “Global Change Ecology“, which was launched in April 2024, is dedicated to other possible solutions. “It is important to me to give my students practical insight“, says the researcher. “That's why, as part of the module, we organise a field trip to a solar park and look at what it means to think about climate protection and nature conservation together. We also invite experts and discuss with them the challenges that accompany such projects in everyday life. For example, a politician from the European Parliament and the coordinator of a WWF restoration project will be present.“

Focus on the Range of Plants and Animals

A second focus of Hof's research is modelling the distribution areas of various animal species. In a recent study, for example, he looked at how climatically favourable areas for reptiles are changing worldwide – and how the about 6,000 animal species are managing to keep up with these changes. The result: as climate change progresses, reptile species richness is likely to decline significantly in most parts of the world. The distribution of many snakes, lizards and turtles would have to shift considerably as a result of climate change, but whether the species are mobile enough to do so is more than questionable.

Hof uses data from climatology, physiology, biogeography and ecology in his modelling. “Global Change Ecology is a highly interdisciplinary field of research where we bring together knowledge from different scientific disciplines“, he explains. “The causes of climate change are often closely linked to economic and social developments. That's why we want to work more closely with economists, the humanities and social sciences in the future.“

International Research Experience

Hof has been fascinated by the big picture since the beginning of his academic career - he wrote his diploma thesis on the “Macroecology of the European freshwater fauna“ at the Philipps University of Marburg in 2006. He then worked as a PhD student at the Copenhagen Centre for Macroecology and at the Biodiversity and Global Change Lab of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid. He obtained his PhD in 2010 with a thesis on “Species distributions and climate change: current patterns and future scenarios for biodiversity“.

He then worked as a postdoc at the Senckenberg Research Centre for Biodiversity and Climate in Frankfurt until 2018, after which he moved to the Technical University of Munich, where he was a junior research group leader and TUM Junior Fellow until September 2023.


Prof. Dr. Christian Hof, Chair of Global Change Ecology, Phone: +49 931 31-87965,

By Sebastian Hofmann