Does this matter? I think it does, and an obvious example from entomology makes the point: for how long would the dearth of bumble bees have gone unnoticed had 'stamp collectors' not picked up on this and drawn attention to a potentially catastrophic situation? Butterflies such as the Small Tortoiseshell, Aglais urticae, and the Duke of Burgundy, Hamearis lucina, make interesting case studies. The former remains a familiar insect but although its larval food plant, the Stinging Nettle, remains abundant the butterfly has nevertheless shown a significant decline. Why? The latter, once known as 'Mr Vernon's Small Fritillary' was never as familiar as the Small Tortoiseshell but its habitat of woodland clearings is now less common and in Wiltshire, for example, although it was known from 126 sites in the 1980's, a recent survey only found it in 23 locations. Laboratory work would never have revealed this problem.
So what brought on these profound ruminations? Have I had a devastating eureka moment? Not a bit of it. But these thoughts passed through what I refer to as my mind when I was looking at some common lichens and mosses on trees alongside Christchurch Drive, a stone's throw from our house. As far as I am aware all the organisms I noted are ubiquitous species. There was, for example, the lichen, Ramalina fastigiata, on twigs.
The lichen Ramalina fastigiata found adjacent to Christchurch Road,
Daventry, 17 January, 2017
The truth is of course that the philatelists and physicists are mutually dependent and perhaps we should regard their relationship as symbiotic which, under the circumstances, is surely an appropriate term.