Have you ever heard about the mystery barren patches surrounded by plants dubbed fairy circles? Though the incredible pattern on dessert grassland looks strangely regular, it is definitely not some supernatural force’s work. These fairy circles can be really big, and some of them get up to 50 feet in diameter.
As a flashpoint of controversy for long, these fairy circles used to appear in certain, special places such as Namibia and they have puzzled scentists since 1920s. But not long ago in 2014, they were discovered in Western Australia’s droughty remote Pilbara region. Indeed, there were plenty of whimsical guesses of its creator. Some believed it’s originated by termites, others thought of carbon monoxide underground, poison plants, and mythical dragon’s incredible breath of course.
Anyway, here’s a new explanation launched in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences seems quite convincing. Dr. Stephan Getzin of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Germany, together with his colleagues had come up with the result.
“I think we have just made an important step forward by showing that identical fairy circles to the Namibian ones can be found around the globe, without correlation to termite activity,” said Getzin.
They focused on analysing the soil in the Australian circles with observation, maths and computer models. They claimed that fairy circles is a form of “natrual balancing act” which must have something to do with water.
To be brief, in unwatered areas, the sun often bakes bare patch of soil into hard, water-impenetrable crust where the surface temperatures can reach a sizzling 167 degrees Fahrenheit. Instead, water runs off toward the edges of the circles and ensure the survival of plants. At the same time, the barren stay bare since no seedling can ever take root there. As the surrounding condition changes, fairy circles also grow and shrink all the time.
“In Namibia, the sandy soils of the fairy circles are much more permeable and precipitation can drain away with ease. The details of this mechanism are different to that in Australia,” Getzin explains. “But it produces the same vegetation pattern because both systems of gaps are triggered by the same instability.”
Surely there would be alter results with climate change and various geographic conditions, but the best way of proving a theory is to find the more examples in the stated conditions. So for now, it’s time for Getzin to test his theory in other dry places around the world, see whether fairy circles repeatedly spring up under that kind of circumstances.
No matter this outbreaking theory end up right or wrong, at least we are introduced to another possible natural mechanisms, and this is truly remarkable. Moreover, the discovery of fairy circles in Australia has doubled the number of studied sites about this around the globe. “You should never claim to put an end to the mystery,” Getzin told the New Scientist. “We’ve just made one significant step forward in solving the problem.”