Secrets of Namibia’s fairy circles demystified: Plants self-organize

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. Now, researchers benefiting from two exceptionally good rainfall seasons in the Namib Desert, show 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.

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