ASU ecologist believes context is vital to sustainable landscapes

Jianguo WuThe prominent color-field painter Kenneth Noland once said: “For me, context is the key. From that comes the understanding of everything.” Arizona State University School of Life Sciences Dean’s Distinguished Professor Jianguo Wu would certainly agree. “Sustainability science has to be done on multiple scales," Wu said. "Global scale is important. Local scale is important. Regional scale in the middle is very important and operational. From a distance, we see the big picture, but if you see the forest without seeing the trees, we can never see why. Mechanisms, processes — these are important. We need to zoom in and zoom out. See the context. See the details.” Wu wants landscape and urban ecologists to realize the importance of context when designing ecological studies that look at land use. In a paper published in April, Wu argues that the regional scale is an important missing link and believes that regional scale provides a concrete system that scientists can work with. There’s just one problem: it’s hard to find solutions that work on multiple scales. In yet another paper published with Amy Frazier, an assistant professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Wu proposes that landscape sustainability and landscape ecology be linked to discover these solutions. Wu has focused his research on landscape ecology for 25 years and is interested in addressing its problems from all angles. Landscape ecology is becoming increasingly important because humans are rapidly modifying landscapes in ways that reduce biodiversity. Hence, scientists need to discover new ways to make landscape more sustainable. One idea proposed by Wu and School of Sustainability graduate student Bing-Bing Zhou in a paper published in September in the Journal of Landscape and Urban planning , is to focus on identifying a problem and talking to people affected by said problem to understand the obstacles in the way of solving it.