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Wikenigma - an Encyclopedia of Unknowns Wikenigma - an Encyclopedia of the Unknown

'Fairy circles' (ecology)

'Fairy circles' are distinct surface topology features found at various geographical locations - notably in arid areas of Namibia and Australia - where many thousands of examples have been recorded.

As the name suggests, they tend to be roughly-circular patches of land - but with no growing plants in the centres. They often have a thin border formed by tougher grass growth. They vary between 2 and 12 meters in diameter - large enough to show up on satellite imagery (example)

They were first described ( by the 'Western' scientific community) in the 1980s (ref.South African Journal of Botany, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp. 69-74)

Since then, various theories about their mode of formation have been put forward - but to date there is no agreed explanation. Theories include :

  • Action by termites
  • Fungal outgrowing
  • Radioactive soil
  • Plant toxins
  • Water-use feedback loops involving grasses
  • Toxic gas emissions

Note: A 2023 study used AI tech. to scan existing satellite imagery for similar structures, and found evidence of fairy-circle-like formations at 263 sites in 15 different countries. (ref.). The authors do not, however, offer further theories about their formation, or confirm that they are identical structures to those seen in Namibia and Australia,

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