Posted on behalf of Penelope Mills, PhD candidate at The University of Queensland, working on the systematics and evolution of two groups of gall-inducing scale insects of Apiomorpha (Hemiptera: Eriococcidae).
By 2028 we will have described ~75% of species of Australian arthropods.
Arguably, phylum Arthropoda contains some of
the most important species on the planet. They are also the most numerous
group, and include about 80% of all the described species. However, much of the
biodiversity within arthropods remain undescribed. Even within this current age
of genomics, much of the research concerning Arthropoda focusses on a narrow
breadth of species (e.g. medically-important species, agricultural pests,
species of quarantine concern).
Many biodiversity surveys and estimates use species
as the unit of measure. This means that better-known groups (e.g. chordates,
angiosperms) are commonly included in biodiversity estimates, whereas the most
numerous groups (e.g. Arthropoda) tend to be ignored because most species are
yet to be described or can not be identified to species level.
There are already systematic grants available
from ABRS and BushBlitz to nurture the discovery and documentation of
Australia’s biodiversity. However, additional funding from government agencies,
including the ARC, should be sought for funding basic taxonomic research to
increase the achievability of the proposed goal.
The difficulty will be in convincing the
funding panels and the public that this research is necessary and has
far-reaching implications. Putting a name to a species allows it to be
considered for biodiversity and conservation purposes, and the additional data
provided by the description can be used by multiple digital platforms currently
in place (e.g. Atlas of Living Australia, BowerBird) to examine additional
questions about Australia’s biodiversity.