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Herb Spirals

The garden spiral is like a snail shell, with stone spiraling upward to create multiple micro-climates and a cornucopia of flavors on a small footprint. Spirals can come in any size to fit any space, from an urban courtyard to an entire yard. You don’t even need a patch of ground, as they can be built on top of patios, pavement, and rooftops. You can spiral over an old stump or on top of poor soil. By building up vertically, you create more growing space, make watering easy, and lessen the need to bend over while harvesting. To boot, spirals add instant architecture and year-round beauty to your landscape: the perfect garden focal point.

One of the beauties of an herb spiral is that you are creating multiple microclimates in a small space. The combination of stones, shape, and vertical structure offers a variety of planting niches for a diversity of plants. The stones also serve as a thermal mass, minimizing temperature swings and extending the growing seasons. Whatever you grow in your spiral, it will pump out a great harvest for the small space it occupies. I’ve grown monstrous cucumbers in my large garden spiral, with one plant producing over 30 prize-size fruits. The spiral is a food-producing superstar!

Stacked stones create perennial habitat for beneficial critters, such as lizards and spiders that help balance pest populations in the garden. The stone network is a year-round safe haven for beneficial insects and other crawlies that work constantly to keep your garden in balance—and you in the hammock. A little design for them up-front pays big, tasty dividends later.

Read more on Ecologia Design

#permaculture #herb spiral #microclimate

The top image is a photograph of a lush rainforest canopy. The bottom image colors each tree based on its species.

How? It’s all thanks to a special lab built by ecologist Greg Asner inside a twin-turboprop airplane. From a few thousand feet up, the Carnegie Airborne Observatory uses lasers, spectrometers and other instruments to build a detailed 3-D model of a forest, identify different species of vegetation and quantify carbon sequestration. It’s a lot quicker than tramping through the jungle and taking these measurements on foot.

A fun tidbit from the full story:
“On one occasion, he and his team mapped more than 6,500 square miles of the Colombian Amazon at night — about the size of Connecticut plus Rhode Island — flying with all their lights out to avoid being shot at by the FARC, the Colombian rebel force.

Images: Greg Asner, Carnegie Airborne Observatory

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Achrioptera fallax

Achrioptera fallax is a stick insect species found in Madagascar. The males are a bright electric blue (with greenish tints) and have two rows of reddish orange spines along the edges of the femur. There are also dark coloured spines going along the sides and underneath the thorax. Males are brachypterous (incapable of flight) and have small reduced wings. Females have a duller outlook. They are a light brown with red spines covering the entire thorax and the top of the head. The male grows up to 13 cm in length while the female is much bigger and can grow up to 18, 5 cm in length. Their diet in the wild is unknown but in captivity they mainly feed on bramble, raspberry, eucalyptus, and oak.

photo credits: thedancingrest, reptileforums

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This ghostlike octopod is almost certainly an undescribed species and may not belong to any described genus.  This species is particularly unusual because it lacks the pigment cells, called chromatophores, typical of most cephalopods, and it did not seem very muscular. It was found at 4,290 meters northeast of Necker Island (Mokumanamana) in the Hawaiian Archipelago

Gorgeous, Weird Jellyfish Found 12,000 feet Below the Surface Near Mariana Trench

The jellyfish in question was filmed earlier this week near the Mariana Trench during a submersible dive to explore an area called the Enigma Seamount. The jellyfish was spotted at a depth of over 12,139 feet. The NOAA researchers identified it as a kind of jellyfish called a hydromedusa, a part of the genus Crossota. Watch a video of it floating around.

Photography by  NOAA

Earth’s upper atmosphere—below freezing, nearly without oxygen, flooded by UV radiation—is no place to live. But last winter, scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology discovered that billions of bacteria actually thrive up there.

Expecting only a smattering of microorganisms, the researchers flew six miles above Earth’s surface in a NASA jet plane. There, they pumped outside air through a filter to collect particles.

Back on the ground, they tallied the organisms, and the count was staggering: 20 percent of what they had assumed to be just dust or other particles was alive. Earth, it seems, is surrounded by a bubble of bacteria.

Now what? Read the whole story over at PopSci

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JEWEL-LIKE CRUSTACEAN FROM THE DEEP SEA

Amphipods are small crustacean that inhabits all acuatic environments, from ocean depths to groundwater, in freshwater systems, also found in caves and sea ice. Their feeding strategies are various: detrital feeders, herbivores, scavengers and suspension feeder, over 800 Species of amphipods are know worldwide.
These amphipods of the families Epimeriidae and Iphimediidae are among the prettiest, these living gems are predominantly red, and fades quicly with increasing depth. They are foud in the Southern Ocean and are tiny, just 2-4cm long.
At 1950 m Epimeria larsi, aka the pink gem holds the deepest known species record for the genus, and was collected from the northern Ross Sea slope.

  • Photo: Top left: Epimeria rimicarinata; Top right: E. larsi; Middle row: E. schiaparelli (named after the photographer); Bottom right: Epimeria robusta. The bottom left image is of a closely related genus, Echiniphimedia, aptly named the ‘prickly’ amphipod. Credit: Stefano Schiaparelli (University of Genoa) and David Bowden (NIWA)/ IPY CAML voyage TAN0802.
  • More NIWA
  • more about Antarctic amphipods

“Chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans have been living for hundreds of thousands of years in their forest, living fantastic lives, never overpopulating, never destroying the forest. I would say that they have been in a way more successful than us as far as being in harmony with the environment.”

Jane Goodall (primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, UN Messenger of Peace, and overall beautiful ambassador of life on this planet)

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Indian giant squirrel (Ratufa indica)

The Indian giant squirrel is a large tree squirrel species genus Ratufa native to India. It is a large-bodied diurnal, arboreal, and herbivorous squirrel found in South Asia. The Indian giant squirrel is an upper-canopy dwelling species, which rarely leaves the trees, and requires tall profusely branched trees for the construction of nests. It travels from tree to tree with jumps of up to 6 m. When in danger, the Ratufa indica often freezes or flattens itself against the tree trunk, instead of fleeing. The Giant Squirrel is mostly active in the early hours of the morning and in the evening, resting in the midday. The species is endemic to deciduous, mixed deciduous, and moist evergreen forests of peninsular India. There is some disagreement between biologists regarding how many subspecies belong to the Ratufa indica lineage. It is generally acknowledged that there are either four or five subspecies, depending on the source. The Indian Giant Squirrel lives alone or in pairs.

photo credits: wiki, wiki, Rakesh Kumar Dogra, adityajoshi

Our planet’s diverse, thriving ecosystems may seem like permanent fixtures, but they’re actually vulnerable to collapse. Jungles can become deserts, and reefs can become lifeless rocks. What makes one ecosystem strong and another weak in the face of change? The answer, to a large extent, is biodiversity.

Happy Earth Week! 

From the TED-Ed lesson Why is biodiversity so important? - Kim Preshoff

Animation by TED-Ed

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The Alien World of the Cambrian

If you were to wake up one day and find yourself surrounded by these amazing creatures, after first freaking out, you would probably come to the conclusion that you were on some alien world.

But in actuality these are all real organisms from earths distant past - the Cambrian period. Artists and animators have joined forces with paleontologists to produce these visualisations of the various fossils found all over the world.

It is likely planet earth will never see a period like this again, and however horrifying it may have been, that is disappointing.

I have listed the names of the arthropods in the captions of each photo.

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Mind-blowing and staggering photographs from the Socotra islands of Yemen. The archipelago is very isolated and about a third of its fauna is endemic to the islands, meaning that it can not be found anywhere else. The islands are considered a profoundly well-preserved jewel of biodiversity with over 700 documented endemic species of plants and animals and has been described as “the most alien-looking place on earth”.

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Red Velvet Cupcakes. Or. Red Velvet Mites. You Choose…

Mites are among the oldest and most numerous organisms on the planet. They are diverse in form (30,000+ described species) and phylogeny (350 families) and extraordinarily abundant in a wide range of habitats, including your head. A couple of hectares or a few acres and you have the planets human population in mites. The group shown here are among the few that you might actually notice, unless you are an acarologist or obsessed with the little things. Pretty obvious why they are called red velvet mites, I reckon.

Sweet little things aren’t they? Just like cupcakes.