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Sustainability requires species exploration

March 10, 2011

Sustainability often is centered around natural ecosystems, but Quentin Wheeler, an entomologist who is director of the International Institute for Species Exploration at ASU, says that we "have little idea of what plants and animals comprise those ecosystems. Our best guess is perhaps that 90 percent of the species on Earth remain unknown to science."

The question, then, of how to sustain life on Earth becomes problematic if we are trying to sustain living things of whose existence we are not aware. Although demanding, taxonomy, Wheeler says, is essential to exploring the diversity of life around us so that we can develop a system in which to accurately detect and respond to sustainability issues such as climate change. Wheeler also is a university vice president and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.