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Discovery of fairy circles in Australia supports self-organization theory

Overview of attention for article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, March 2016
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About this Attention Score

  • In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (99th percentile)
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (98th percentile)

Mentioned by

news
74 news outlets
blogs
15 blogs
twitter
58 tweeters
facebook
9 Facebook pages
wikipedia
1 Wikipedia page
googleplus
3 Google+ users

Citations

dimensions_citation
41 Dimensions

Readers on

mendeley
138 Mendeley
Title
Discovery of fairy circles in Australia supports self-organization theory
Published in
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, March 2016
DOI 10.1073/pnas.1522130113
Pubmed ID
Authors

Stephan Getzin, Hezi Yizhaq, Bronwyn Bell, Todd E. Erickson, Anthony C. Postle, Itzhak Katra, Omer Tzuk, Yuval R. Zelnik, Kerstin Wiegand, Thorsten Wiegand, Ehud Meron

Abstract

Vegetation gap patterns in arid grasslands, such as the "fairy circles" of Namibia, are one of nature's greatest mysteries and subject to a lively debate on their origin. They are characterized by small-scale hexagonal ordering of circular bare-soil gaps that persists uniformly in the landscape scale to form a homogeneous distribution. Pattern-formation theory predicts that such highly ordered gap patterns should be found also in other water-limited systems across the globe, even if the mechanisms of their formation are different. Here we report that so far unknown fairy circles with the same spatial structure exist 10,000 km away from Namibia in the remote outback of Australia. Combining fieldwork, remote sensing, spatial pattern analysis, and process-based mathematical modeling, we demonstrate that these patterns emerge by self-organization, with no correlation with termite activity; the driving mechanism is a positive biomass-water feedback associated with water runoff and biomass-dependent infiltration rates. The remarkable match between the patterns of Australian and Namibian fairy circles and model results indicate that both patterns emerge from a nonuniform stationary instability, supporting a central universality principle of pattern-formation theory. Applied to the context of dryland vegetation, this principle predicts that different systems that go through the same instability type will show similar vegetation patterns even if the feedback mechanisms and resulting soil-water distributions are different, as we indeed found by comparing the Australian and the Namibian fairy-circle ecosystems. These results suggest that biomass-water feedbacks and resultant vegetation gap patterns are likely more common in remote drylands than is currently known.

Twitter Demographics

The data shown below were collected from the profiles of 58 tweeters who shared this research output. Click here to find out more about how the information was compiled.

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 138 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
Germany 3 2%
United Kingdom 2 1%
South Africa 2 1%
Spain 1 <1%
Australia 1 <1%
Switzerland 1 <1%
Brazil 1 <1%
Japan 1 <1%
Argentina 1 <1%
Other 0 0%
Unknown 125 91%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Ph. D. Student 33 24%
Researcher 29 21%
Student > Master 23 17%
Student > Bachelor 11 8%
Professor 11 8%
Other 31 22%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Agricultural and Biological Sciences 45 33%
Environmental Science 35 25%
Unspecified 18 13%
Physics and Astronomy 11 8%
Earth and Planetary Sciences 10 7%
Other 19 14%

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 738. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 25 February 2019.
All research outputs
#7,710
of 13,638,307 outputs
Outputs from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
#296
of 80,785 outputs
Outputs of similar age
#292
of 263,723 outputs
Outputs of similar age from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
#10
of 915 outputs
Altmetric has tracked 13,638,307 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done particularly well and is in the 99th percentile: it's in the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 80,785 research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of 24.4. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 99% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 263,723 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 99% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 915 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 98% of its contemporaries.