A closer look at our fairy circles

The fairy circles of Namibia have been called one of nature’s greatest mysteries. These circular grassland gaps form along the Namib below 150 mm mean annual precipitation, where moisture is too low to sustain a continuous layer with uniform vegetation.

If you’ve ever wondered about this magical phenomenon, join a public talk by Dr Stephan Getzin on Thursday (9 February) at 19:00 at the Namibia Scientific Society.

Getzin studied the fairy circles for the first time in the Kaokoveld in 2000 when his resulting publication established the term “fairy circles” in the scientific literature. Since then, he has closely followed research developments on the subject.

In 2012, he began a detailed analysis of the spatial patterns of the fairy circles, testing the plausibility of various hypotheses about the origin of the circles. Since 2015, Getzin has visited the Namib every year, covering all the hotspot regions where fairy circles occur.

During the rainy seasons from 2020 to 2022, he visited the fairy circles in several regions of the Namib immediately after the rains. In his talk, he will give an overview of his past research on testing the “abiotic gas”, the “Euphorbia” as well as the “social insect” hypotheses, and he will present the major findings of his recent fieldwork, which was published in October 2022.

In the talk, Getzin will not only show that the Stipagrostis grasses form fairy circles via plant self-organisation, but he will also show so-far unknown plant rings of the Namib, where annual Schmidtia grasses and annual Limeum forbs engineer similar but smaller circlestoto exclusively utilize the soil water from the interior of these rings.

Dr Stephan Getzin from the University of Göttingen/Germany is an associate member of the Gobabeb Namib Research Institute. He was the first full-time student from Germany at the University of Namibia in Windhoek, where he studied biology and geography.

In his B.Sc. thesis, he specialised in grass species diversity and grazing dynamics in the Khomas Hochland. He wrote his M.Sc. thesis at the University of Potsdam/Germany about “Structural Fire Effects in the World's Savannahs”. During hiPhDD. at the University of Jena/Germany, he specialised in spatial ecology and spatial statistics.

Most of his scientific publications deal with spatial aspects of plant and animal distributions, and with the testing of hypotheses on pattern-forming processes. With 13 papers on fairy circles, he published more than any other researcher on the subject.

Since 2014 Getzin's research on fairy circles has appeared repeatedly in major media outlets including CNN, BBC, The New York Times and the Washington Post.

Participate online here: https://zoom.us/j/8023841980.