Connect with us


Secrets of Namibia’s Fairy Circles Demystified After Half Century



NamibRand Nature Reserve in Namibia – Dr. Stephan Getzin

Scientists have puzzled over the origin of Namibia’s fairy circles for nearly half a century. It boiled down to two main theories: either termites were responsible, or plants were somehow self-organizing.

About 50-90 miles from the coast in the Namib (80-140km), there are millions of so-called ‘fairy circles’ – circular gaps in the grassland, each a few meters wide, together forming a distinctive pattern across the whole landscape and visible for miles around.

Now, researchers from the University of Göttingen, benefitting from two exceptionally good rainfall seasons in the Namib Desert, discovered that the grasses within the fairy circles died immediately after rainfall, but termite activity did not cause the bare patches.

Instead, continuous soil-moisture measurements demonstrate that the grasses around the circles strongly depleted the water within the circles and thereby likely induced the death of the grasses inside the circles.

The researchers followed the sporadic rain events in several regions in this desert and examined the grasses, their roots and shoots, and potential root damage induced by termites. Termites, tiny insects that live in large colonies around the world, often have been blamed for the death of the grasses. The researchers took great care to investigate the circumstances of dying grasses within fairy circles right from straight after the rainfall, which triggered the new growth of the grasses.

RELATED: Researchers Solve Mystery of Scattered Black Glass in Chilean Desert – it Was Made by an Exploding Comet

Additionally, they installed soil-moisture sensors in and around the fairy circles to record the soil-water content at 30-minute intervals starting in the dry season 2020 to the end of the rainy season 2022. This enabled the researchers to record precisely how the growth of the new emerging grasses around the circles affected the soil water within and around the circles. They investigated the differences in water infiltration between the inside and outside of circles at ten regions across the Namib.

The data show that about ten days after rainfall, the grasses were already starting to die within the circles while most of the interior area of the circles did not have grass germination at all. 20 days after rainfall, the struggling grasses within the circles were completely dead and yellowish in color while the surrounding grasses were vital and green.

LOOK: One of Archaeology’s Great Mysteries Nearly Solved as Scientists Piece Together 2,000-yo Astronomy Calculator

When the researchers examined the roots of the grasses from within the circles and compared them to the green grasses on the outside, they found that the roots within the circles were as long as, or even longer than, those outside, indicating the grasses were putting effort into the growth of roots in search of water. The researchers found no evidence for termites feeding on roots.

It was not until 50-60 days after the rainfall that root damage became more visible.

“There was no biomass for these insects to feed on,” explained Dr Stephan Getzin, Department of Ecosystem Modeling at the University of Göttingen. “Termites are not responsible because the grasses die immediately after rainfall without any sign of creatures feeding on the root.”

“Under the strong heat in the Namib, the grasses are permanently transpiring and losing water. Hence, they create soil-moisture vacuums around their roots and water is drawn towards them. Our results strongly agree with those of researchers who have shown that water in soil diffuses quickly and horizontally in these sands even over distances greater than seven meters.”

Decline in soil water inside and outside of the circles was very slow after initial rainfall, when grasses were not yet established. However, when the surrounding grasses were well established, the decline in soil water after rainfall was very fast in all areas—even though there were almost no grasses within the circles to take the water. Getzin explains:

CHECK OUT: Traveling Green ‘Glacier Mice’ Charm Scientists With Reminder That the World is Still Full of Mystery

“By forming strongly patterned landscapes of evenly spaced fairy circles, the grasses act as ecosystem engineers and benefit directly from the water resource provided by the vegetation gaps. In fact, we know related self-organized vegetation structures from various other harsh drylands in the world, and in all those cases the plants have no other chance to survive except by growing exactly in such geometrical formations.”

The research, published in Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, has implications for understanding similar ecosystems, especially with regard to climate change, because the self-organization of plants buffers against negative effects induced by increasing aridification.

A video clip shows a German researcher demonstrating what happens inside a fairy circle in Brandberg, Namibia 35 days after a rainfall in 2021…

SHARE the Mystery-Solved With Your Fairy Circle on Social Media…

Continue Reading

Recent News

Exhibition Game Exhibition Game
How to4 days ago

How to Choose the Ideal Exhibition Game for Your Event

Hosting an event involves a multitude of decisions, from the venue to the catering, but one aspect that can make...

Boiler Boiler
Guide5 days ago

When Is the Best Time to Replace a Boiler?

A boiler is a workhorse that works around the clock. It provides heat and warm water whenever needed. While horses...

Grammar Grammar
Tech6 days ago

Grammar Checkers Unleashed: Enhancing Writing Precision and Efficiency

In the present computerized age, the ascent of simulated intelligence innovation has presented new difficulties in regards to the genuineness...

Crypto Staking Crypto Staking
Crypto1 week ago

Is it Possible To Make Money On Crypto Staking in 2024?

In the modern world, cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies are becoming increasingly popular, attracting the attention of investors and users from...

Lake Como Lake Como
Wedding1 week ago

How to Choose the Right Location for a Marriage Proposal in Italy and Lake Como

Proposing marriage is a unique and memorable moment in a couple’s life. Choosing the right location is crucial to creating...

Personal Injury Lawyer Personal Injury Lawyer
Law2 weeks ago

Finding the Best Personal Injury Lawyer in Lumberton, NC

Personal injury law is designed to protect individuals who have been harmed due to the negligence or wrongful actions of...

WhatsApp Business WhatsApp Business
Business2 weeks ago

Running WhatsApp Business with Pro+VPS for Android Emulator

WhatsApp Business is one of the most powerful tool for Business to manage customers communication. Running it can enhance the...

Civil Partnership Visa Civil Partnership Visa
Finance2 weeks ago

Civil Partnership Visa vs Spouse Visa: Which One is Right for You

Choosing the right visa to join your partner in the UK can be confusing. Two common options are the Civil...

Crypto Crypto
Crypto2 weeks ago

Staked Crypto – A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

Ethereum staking has become an increasingly popular way for cryptocurrency holders to earn passive income through staking rewards. In this...

Ethereum Staking Ethereum Staking
Crypto2 weeks ago

Maximizing Ethereum Staking Rewards: Tips and Tricks

Are you looking to maximize the potential of your Ethereum holdings? Stake Ethereum using OkayCoin and take advantage of the...