Fairy Circles of the Namib Desert: Ecosystem engineering by subterranean social insects

Fairy Circles of the Namib Desert: Ecosystem engineering by subterranean social insects. Biodiversity & Ecology, Volume 7
Schmiedel, Ute; Finckh, Manfred; Jürgens, Norbert
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Title: Fairy Circles of the Namib Desert
Subtitle: Ecosystem engineering by subterranean social insects
Editors: Manfred Finckh; Ute Schmiedel
Author: Norbert Jürgens
Series: Biodiversity & Ecology, Volume 7
Journal of the Division Biodiversity, Evolution and Ecology of Plants, Institute of Plant Science and Microbiology
University of Hamburg
Publisher: Klaus Hess Publishers
Göttingen, Namibia 2022
ISBN 9783933117960 / ISBN 978-3-933117-96-0
Hardcover, 21 x 30 cm, 376 pages, throughout photos, figures, tables and maps

About: Fairy Circles of the Namib Desert: Ecosystem engineering by subterranean social insects

The fairy circles of the Namib Desert in southern Africa are often regarded as an outstanding mystery of nature and several scientific hypotheses for their causation have been proposed and are subject of an ongoing debate. Fairy Circles of the Namib Desert: Ecosystem engineering by subterranean social insects fifteen authors offer a wealth of information based on numerous in-depth studies on the morphology, ecology and biology of fairy circles and the organisms which create, use and maintain them. Other regular vegetation patterns of the Namib Desert and neighbouring biomes are introduced and discussed, and the great illustrations invite to enjoy a journey to the diversity of fairy circle landscapes in Namibia, Angola, and South Africa. With contributions from Alicia Geppert, Alexander Gröngröft, Felicitas Gunter, Joh R. Henschel, Katharina J. Huber, Joe McAuliffe, Jens Oldeland, Jorg Overmann, Javier Pascual, Mike Picker, Rasmus Revermann, Priscilla Sichone, Johannes Sikorski and Andrey Yurkov.

Content: Fairy Circles of the Namib Desert: Ecosystem engineering by subterranean social insects

The role of termites as ecosystem engineers in southern African drylands: overlooked, underestimated, and misinterpreted
U. Schmiedel & M. Finckh
About this book

Chapter 1 What is a fairy circle?
Chapter 2 The Namib Desert and the Namib Fairy Circles

2.1 History
2.2 Biogeography
2.3 Distribution of fairy circles within the Namib Desert
Chapter 3 Morphology and vegetation features of the Namib Fairy Circles
3.1 Fairy circle morphology
3.2 The bare patch
3.3 The perennial belt
3.4 The halo
3.5 The matrix
3.6 Continuous halo grassland
3.7 The ephemeral belt
Chapter 4 The debate on the origin of fairy circles in the Namib and the role of termites as their originators
4.1 Introduction—a short history of research on the origin fairy circles
4.2 A brief comparison of the most important hypotheses
4.3 Diversity of termites in the Namib Desert.
4.4 The sand termites of the genus Psammotermes, originators of the fairy circles of the Namib from Iona in Angola to South Africa
The position of the sand termites within the phylogenetic tree of termites
The distribution of the sand termites in southern Africa
Not one but several: morphological diversity within the sand termite
F. Gunter, J. Oldeland, J.R. Henschel, M.D. Picker & N. Jürgens
Phylogeny of sand termites
F. Gunter, J.R. Henschel, M.D. Picker, J. Oldeland & N. Jürgens
Reproduction of sand termites and local genetic patterns
F. Gunter, J. Oldeland, J.R. Henschel, M.D. Picker & N. Jürgens
Food of sand termites
Nests of the sand termites
Water balance of sand termites
A practical guide: which observations at a fairy circle indicate sand termite activity?
Why does the geographical range of the fairy circles not match the distribution area of the sand termites?
4.5 A new species of harvester termites, causator of the giant fairy circles near the village Baba in the northern Namib in Angola
N. Jürgens, F. Gunter, J. Oldeland, A. Groengroeft, J.R. Henschel, I. Oncken & M.D. Picker
4.6 Hodotermes mossambicus causes large circular bare patches under rare circumstances
N. Jürgens & F. Gunter
Chapter 5 The life history of Namib Fairy Circles
5.1 Processes related to the formation of new fairy circles in the Namib Desert
5.2 Maintenance of adult fairy circles: basic observations
5.3 The dynamic life of adult fairy circles: growing, shrinking and recurrence
5.4 The "end" of fairy circles.
5.5 About the age of the fairy circles: immortal fairy circles or periodic resurrection in a breathing system?
5.6 Life history and age of fairy circles: a short summary
Chapter 6 Diversity: a journey through landscapes of the Namib Region characterized by different fairy circles
6.1 "Baba" Fairy Circles: the largest of all fairy circles—formed by harvest termites
6.2 "Iona": images of a distant planet—fairy circle patterns in dunes
6.3 The "Kunene Sand Plains": Namibia's largest fairy circles—caused by sand termites and enlarged by wind erosion
6.4 The "Halo Plains": the world of the largest halos
6.5 "Hartmann Valley": between desert and continuous grassland
6.6 "Marienfluss Valley": biotic interactions on red sand
6.7 "Giribes": a fairy circle paradise surrounded by rocks
6.8 "Damara": from Twyfelfontein via Sorris-Sorris to the northern Central Namib: fairy circles between Mopane and Welwitschia.
6.9 "Southern Central Namib": isolated sand deposits between calcareous crusts and clay pans
6.10 Dune valleys south of "Gobabeb": fairy circles in Stipagrostis gonatostachys grassland
6.11 "Southern Namib": the largest and densest clusters of small fairy circles
6.12 Fairy circles in southern "Namaland"
6.13 Fairy circles at the edge of the "Southern Kalahari"
6.14 "East Gariep": fairy circles in isolated dune systems and sandy basins in rocky landscapes
6.15 "Succulent Karoo"—ancient fairy circles in a world of water storage in plants
Chapter 7 Biogeography and ecology of Namib Fairy Circles: important environmental variables and processes
7.1 The distribution of fairy circles in the Namib
7.2 Biogeographical diversity of fairy circle features
7.3 Climatic diversity of fairy circle landscapes N. Jürgens & J. Oldeland
7.4 Soil properties of fairy circle landscapes A. Gröngröft & N. Jürgens
7.5 Soil moisture and hydrology of fairy circles A. Gröngröft & N. Jürgens
7.6 Methane and other gases are released from fairy circle bare patches
7.7 Magnetic minerals at fairy circle bare patches
7.8 Fairy circles and related structures as landscape elements
Chapter 8 Organisms and their interactions found on, underneath and around fairy circles
8.1 Plants
8.2 Animals
JR. Henschel & N. Jürgens
8.3 Microorganisms
8.4 Evidence for Psammotermes allocerus termite nests as refugium for plant pathogenic microbes: a contribution to generation and maintenance of fairy circles in the Namib Desert
A. Yurkov, J. Pascual, J. Sikorski, A. Geppert, F. Gunter, K.J. Huber, N. Jürgens & J. Overmann
Chapter 9 Patterns resembling fairy circles
9.1 Circular vegetation patterns formed by clonal growth of single plants and their ramets
9.2 Rings of several individual plants
9.3 Bare patches in the vegetation caused by colonies of burrowing small mammals
9.4 Circular structures engineered by social insects other than sand termites
9.5 Bare areas caused by Hodotermes mossambicus in the northern Namib Desert
N. Jürgens & F. Gunter
9.6 Polygonal to circular „Desert Vegetation Islands" (DVI)
9.7 Polygonal vegetation patterns
Chapter 10 Other regular landscape structures in southern Africa created by termite-driven ecosystem engineering
10.1 "Heuweltjies"-the "Little Hills" of western South Africa J. McAuliffe
10.2 Macrotermes natalensis termite colonies in seasonally flooded savannas
N. Jürgens, P. Sichone, R. Revermann, F. Gunter & J. Oldeland
10.3 Macrotermes michaelseni mounds in the thornbush savanna of Namibia
Chapter 11 Beyond termites: an outlook on linear vegetation patterns in the Namib Desert
11.1 Contour-parallel vegetation bands
Chapter 12 Conclusions
Concluding remarks on Namib Fairy Circles, their origin, phenology, ecology, dynamics, ecosystem function and similarities to other vegetation patterns
Glossary and abbreviations
Institutional affiliations