VOICES Ideas and Insight From Explorers
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By Ellen Anderson, American Prairie Reserve – In prairie ecosystems, it is difficult to see the biodiversity that is there from the window of a vehicle, even for people who are plant nerds like my husband Lars and me. Who can really distinguish different grass species without walking out into the prairie? Once we throw…
In dry ecosystems like Namibia, where fairy circles are common, competition for water is fierce. Therefore, while we may see a calm savannah landscape, fierce resource competition is actually being waged below the surface, at root level.
“We hypothesize that these barren spots arise due to below-ground resource competition between grasses,” states the report. “Enhanced growth in individuals that are strong competitors for below-ground resources results in the decline in growth of neighboring individuals, thus forming larger interspaces or barren patches.”
In other words, whoever wins the water war essentially condemns his neighboring grasses to death by dehydration, creating a barren patch – the nexus of the fairy circle.