Fairy circles are one of nature’s greatest enigmas and most visually stunning phenomena. An international research team led by the University of Göttingen has now, for the first time, collected detailed data to show that Alan Turing’s model explains the striking vegetation patterns of the Australian fairy circles. In addition, the researchers showed that the grasses that make up these patterns act as “eco-engineers” to modify their own hostile and arid environment, thus keeping the ecosystem functioning. The results were published in the Journal of Ecology.
Researchers from Germany, Australia and Israel undertook an in-depth fieldwork study in the remote Outback of Western Australia. They used drone technology, spatial statistics, quadrat-based field mapping, and continuous data-recording from a field-weather station. With the drone and a multispectral camera, the researchers mapped the “vitality status” of the Triodia grasses (how strong and how well they grew) in five one-hectare plots and