It appears that the mysterious fairy circles that were discovered in Africa have started turning up in Australia as well. Fairy circles can be described as bald spots among the grasslands in Namibia, which feature a unique pattern in the form of a honeycomb with six sides.
However, the phenomenon has also been recently observed on the distant continent of Australia. The theory behind these circles was that sparse grasses have the ability to organize themselves and form bizarre structures in order to survive the harsh environment.
A couple of aerial photos were taken over Newman in Australia and sent to the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research. The scientists from Leipzig, Germany noticed that the barren patches of the grasslands in Australia were terribly similar to the ones from Namibia. In this respect, a study was conducted. Its results were published in a press release in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last Tuesday.
According to Stephan Getzin, UFZ researcher and leader of the study,
“The interesting thing about fairy circles is that they are spread with great regularity and homogeneity, even over vast areas, but they occur only within a narrow rainfall belt.”
Many scientists have previously believed that the circles were created by termites or ants, or that some toxic gases were rising from the soil and killing grass in weird patterns. However, the circles discovered in Australia present no bugs whatsoever. Therefore, Getzin came up with a new theory: the plants are organizing in order to deal with the dry environment they live in.
After agreeing that the newly found patches from Australia had the same nature as the ones from Namibia by analyzing patterns and using mathematical modeling, the team of researchers arrived at a single conclusion. In spite of the difference between the soil conditions, vegetation in both places organizes into clear patterns because of the water access instability. The process is powered by to systems of biomass water feedback.
The sandy soil of Namibia helps water to seep in. Water reservoirs are built underground the barren regions, and thus, only certain clumps of vegetation receive the water. As a result, they have to move closer. On the other hand, the Australian soil has to create a hardened layer and water cannot seep in and feed the vegetation. However, the areas with grasses manage to cool down the soil and thus small colonies can survive.
While the mechanism’s details are different between the two locations, the cause is the same: water instability.
Image Source: DV Photography