National Geographic

VOICES Voices Icon Ideas and Insight From Explorers

Menu

Tag archives for Savannah

New Theory Explains Africa’s Mysterious Fairy Circles

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.