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“Fairy circles, tiger bush, grass islands, heuweltjies in arid regions: an update of hypothesis and evidence”

Wednesday, 14th September 2016 at 19h30:
presentation by Dr. Norbert Jürgens:

Three years ago, a new and surprising hypothesis explaining the famous fairy circles of the Namib Desert has been published in the prestigious Science Magazine. Norbert Jürgens, a botanist equally based at Windhoek’s SASSCAL office and at the University of Hamburg, proposed that a termite species that had not been considered before is the organism causing fairy circles in Namibia, South Africa and Angola. Furthermore, he shows that the bare patches in the desert margin grassland are not at all damage, but a very intelligent water trap engineered to form an oasis in the desert. These oases provide water, plant biomass as well as meat for organisms and therefore attract many species, filling the oases with life. The publication in Science triggered many hundred newspaper articles. Since 2013, several new articles have been published in scientific journals. New hypothesis have been proposed. A group of scientists follow mathematical models that propose that the fairy circles are caused by competition for water among the grass plants themselves. In early 2016 even the discovery of fairy circles in Australia was announced. Norbert Jürgens will present an update of the hypothesis and the evidence for the different hypotheses. In addition he will present new and astonishing vegetation patterns in Namibia including tiger-striped bush, grass islands and heuweltjies. Get the details and test your own hypothesis! English Presentation – questions can also be asked in German.
Norbert Jürgens (*28 June 1953) is a professor of biology at the University of Hamburg, teaching biodiversity, evolution and ecology of plants, however, he is also based at Windhoek´s SASSCAL office. His main research interest was initially aiming at the evolution of plants in the Namib and Karoo, especially the evolution of adaptations to arid ecosystems (e.g. succulents = water storing plants, psammophors = sand carrying plants). Later he studied the ecological and biogeographical subdivision of the Southern African dry regions and proposed the concept of a Greater Cape Flora that encompasses the southern Namib and even the coastal stretch of the Namib up to the Sceleton Coast. In cooperation with Namibia´s National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) he contributes to a new national vegetation map. For this task his work is focused to the Namib Desert, including parts of Angola and South Africa. In the frame of the international Science Program DIVERSITAS he focused on the development of a global monitoring system (GEO BON) that measures the change of biodiversity as caused by climate change and human land use. In response to the risks imposed by climate change and land use change he had an important role in several large cooperative research projects that were jointly developed by scientists from Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa (ACACIA, BIOTA, The Future Okavango). In the frame of SASSCAL, the Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management with its Regional Secretariat at Windhoek he is the scientific coordinator for presently 87 research tasks.
Everyone welcome! Venue is Namibia Scientific Society, Robert Mugabe Ave 110, opposite National Theatre. Safe parking in yard – Love street entrance.  

Recommended Museum

The Living Museum of the Mafwe was opened in February 2008 and is cultural highlight in the Caprivi, in the north of Namibia. The Living Museum is an authentic open-air museum where guests can learn a lot about the traditional culture and the original way of living of the Mafwe.