University of Bayreuth, Press Release No. 125/2022 dated 01.08.2022

Bayreuth scientist lead author of new World Biodiversity Council IPBES report

The World Biodiversity Council (IPBES) has selected Dr Stephanie Thomas, a scientist in the Biogeography research group at the University of Bayreuth, as lead author of the next IPBES report. She is one of two experts from Bavaria who will work on the new report. IPBES reports collect and evaluate existing knowledge on the state of nature worldwide, and use it to derive options for action by governments to protect biodiversity. IPBES has 139 member states worldwide. 

 Dr Stephanie Thomas was nominated by the Federal Ministry for the Environment and the Federal Ministry of Research as lead author of the IPBES report, along with nine other German scientists. Dr Thomas - as one of two Bavarian scientists - will be instrumental in the preparation of a new IPBES report on "Thematic assessment of the interlinkages among biodiversity, water, food and health". "The joint elaboration of the current state of knowledge of the manifold interlinkages of biodiversity with the important sectors of water, food, and health is currently the most important task of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, IPBES for short, alongside proposals for transformative change in society," explains Dr Stephanie Thomas.

The issue of biodiversity, like climate change, is highly charged, and the problems are often man-made: land use change for food production, timber exploitation, fishing, hunting, pollution, introduction of alien or even disease-carrying species, and climate change are major contributors to the decline in biodiversity and reduce so-called ecosystem services such as clean water, diverse food, and a healthy environment. "After the five mass extinctions in the history of the earth, we are realizing that we are now heading for a man-made sixth mass extinction," says Thomas and explains: "Our report will show in which areas there are important interconnections between the conservation of biodiversity, water, nutrition, and health, and which adjustments will be most important in the future." 

Three years have been set aside to complete the report: it starts with gathering relevant information from science and people's knowledge, moves on to assessing the facts, and ends with a final document. This document is then discussed with government representatives in the Assembly, adopted, and made available to the general public. It also describes models and scenarios that can support future-proof decisions.

The task of a lead author is to summarise and evaluate the current state of knowledge in close exchange with colleagues, to formulate complex interrelationships in a generally understandable way, and to identify gaps in knowledge. Up to 200 scientists work on an IPBES report. The intermediate steps and drafts are regularly given to external experts in the field for revision, and all comments are incorporated or answered in structured form. In this way, scientists worldwide can participate in the preparation of the report.

About Dr. Stephanie Thomas: The geoecologist has been a postdoc at the Biogeography research group at the University of Bayreuth since 2014. Previously, she had studied geoecology there with a focus on biogeography. As an ecologist, her goal is to better understand the connections between biodiversity, climate change, and human and animal health. Her current research interest focuses on disease vectors such as mosquitoes and ticks, so-called vectors, and the pathogens transmitted by them, such as West Nile fever, which has newly emerged in Germany. For Bavaria, she has developed a prototype for an early warning system for mosquito-borne diseases based on various modelling approaches and a variety of environmental data in the Climate Change and Health joint project with colleagues at the research group. Spatial projections of a possible risk situation under climate change conditions enable the estimation of necessary future measures, and the early informing of the affected social groups. In a European project funded by BiodivERsA, she is explicitly working on the biodiversity components of mosquito-borne diseases. This expertise, together with her curiosity to look beyond her own discipline, is the basis for her involvement in IPBES. Dr Stephanie Thomas leads and participates in several interdisciplinary projects with partners from different European countries.

About the World Biodiversity Council (Quelle: IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) is a scientific, intergovernmental body that provides policy-makers with objective and reliable information on the state and development of biodiversity and its ecosystem services. The World Biodiversity Council consists of official members (potentially any UN member), currently 139 states, including Germany, and other stakeholders, such as NGOs, scientists nominated by governments and organisations, and intergovernmental organisations, universities, societies, and environmental associations. They can be accredited to IPBES and participate as observers in IPBES plenaries. IPBES' four areas of responsibility include identifying scientific knowledge needed by policy makers; regularly producing assessments of the current state of knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services and their interrelationships; identifying policy-relevant tools and methodologies to support policy formulation and implementation; prioritising capacity-building needs to further develop the policy-science interface; and providing and attracting funding and other support.

Dr. Stephanie Thomas

Dr. Stephanie Thomas

Postdoc Biogeography research group

Phone: +49 (0) 921 - 55 2306

Portraitbild von Anja Maria Meister

Anja-Maria Meister

PR Spokesperson University of Bayreuth

Phone: +49 (0) 921  55 - 5300