In African ‘fairy circles,’ a template for nature’s many patterns

Thursday, Jan 19, 2017

Be it the Mima mounds of Washington state or the famous “fairy circles” of Namibia in southwestern Africa, people are captivated by the regular patterns of plant growth that blanket desert and grassland landscapes, often with mesmerizing consistency.

Scientists have long debated how these phenomena originate and persist. Now, a new theory suggests that instead of a single overarching cause, large-scale vegetation patterns in arid ecosystems could occasionally stem from millions of local interactions among neighboring plants and animals, according to a Princeton University-led study published Jan. 19 on the cover of the journal Nature.

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