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Study Offers Fresh Take On What Caused “Fairy Circles” In Namib Desert

The circular patches of land devoid of any plant in Namib Desert have been a subject of interest for over 50 years. Ecologists have put forth several theories to decode the mystery of these “fairy circles”, as they are popularly called. But a new study has offered a clear explanation for what could be the reason for this weird growth. Led by Stephan Getzin, an ecologist at the University of Gottingen in Germany, it says plant water stress and not termites has caused these patches. The mysterious rings are spread across 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometres) in the arid grasslands of Southern Africa, according to a report in CNN.
The outlet said that Mr Getzin started researching the fairy circles in the year 2000. He has published more papers on these circles than any other experts.

The bizarre circles are known for barren patches surrounded by grass around them. The fact that grass has grown around the dry area is surprising in itself. In his previous research, the German ecologist had claimed that these plants had evolved around the rings to maximise the limited water in the desert.

This time, his team studied the impact of a drought in 2020 and changes this year after very good rainfall season. Analysing the data, the ecologist found that water from within the circles was depleting fast, despite not having any grass to use it, while the grasses on the outside were as robust as ever. He further said that the well-established grasses had evolved to create a vacuum system around their roots drawing all the water towards them.

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The expert said that grasses within the circle received very less water, hence were unable to win. It called this an example of “ecohydrological feedback”.

According to Nature, these “fairy circles” are regularly sized and have space between them. It named the grass that grows there as Stipagrostis.

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