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Seminar of Emilio Hernandez Garcia

Fairy circles under the sea: Pattern formation in meadows of marine plants

We use the opportunity that Emilio Hernandez Garcia (Institut of Complex Systems, Mallorca) will come to the thesis of Dario Zappalà, to invite him to give an informal seminar, Wednesday April 3, 12:00 in the conference room in Gaia.


Title: Fairy circles under the sea: Pattern formation in meadows of marine plants.
Speaker: Emilio Hernandez-Garcia, IFISC (CSIC-UIB), Palma de Mallorca

Factors such as competition for water or nutrients or interactions with herbivores drive spatial instabilities in landscapes of terrestrial plants, resulting in pattern formation phenomena that have been a subject of intense research in the last years. Observations from air and side-scan sonar data have recently revealed analogous pattern forming phenomena in submerged vegetation in the Mediterranean Sea [1], mainly in meadows of seagrasses such as Posidonia oceanica and Cymodocea nodosa. Starting from growth rules of these clonal plants, we have derived a macroscopic model for the plant density that is able to provide an explanation to the observed submarine patterns of isolated ‘fairy circles’, and landscapes of spots and stripes. The essential ingredient is a competitive interaction at a distance of 20-30m. Beyond a qualitative description of the observed patterns, and their prevalence under different meadow conditions, the model fits well measurements of the population density of Posidonia, which show great variability close to the coast, where patterns typically appear.

Work done in collaboration with D. Ruiz, D. Gomila, T. Sintes, N. Marbà and C. Duarte.

[1] D. Ruiz-Reynés, D. Gomila, T. Sintes, E. Hernández-García, N. Marbà and C.M. Duarte, Fairy circle landscapes under the sea, Science Advances 3, e1603262 (2017).