Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Birch leaf mining fly

The shorter of the two birches in Emthree has many long, squiggly leaf mines on its rather large, soft leaves.

Agromyza alnibetulae mine M3

These are unquestionably those of the small two-winged fly Agromyza alnibetulae, a species that also attacks hornbeam.

This seems to be a first record for Sussex, though I expect it is quite common.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Nature unknowable

I have recently come across two quotes that are particularly appropriate for the Square Metre project. The first from the early 20th century is from Edward Connold’s Gleanings from the Fields of Nature (1908): “Many hours of most careful search may with great profit be devoted to a space so small as one square yard of roadside bank, and a rich fund of facts accumulated.” Connold lived in St Leonards-on-Sea some 9km from the Square Metre as the crow flies, so he must have been familiar with many Emthree-like sites.

The other is from Tony Aldous in New Scientist[1]: “If you cannot know the present in its entirety, you can have no idea what the future might bring.”

Despite years of close study, there is much about the Square Metre that I do not know. What is happening, for example, in the soil where thousands of small organisms, many of microscopic size, are going about their business. I cannot know the full spectrum of visiting organisms: animals and insects, fungal spores and organisms carried in on the feet and fur of night visitors.

It is not, of course, my aim to discover everything about Emthree and I do not attempt to predict the future, but I do wonder on the worth of many ecological studies that purport to make predictions without “knowing the present in its entirety.”

To paraphrase John Donne "No species is an island, entire of itself."

[1] Google’s data junkie. New Scientist 210 No. 2810, 30 April 2011.