Eelgrass Fairy Rings and Their Real Cause

Eelgrass Fariy Rings and Their Real Cause


The origins of the mysterious eelgrass fairy rings growing off of Denmark’s coast has been the subject of much speculation. Various theories have been advanced, such as that they’re caused by aliens, WWII bombs, or — even by fairies. Now, biologists have said that they know what’s behind the so-called “fairy rings” — poison.

The fairy rings are made of green eelgrass and they surround patches of dirt on the seabed where they grow. Some of the rings are fairly large, reaching 49 feet in width. They are often seen in the Baltic Ocean, off of the coast of the Isle of Man.

They were first photographed by tourists in 2008, then also in photographs taken in 2011. It wasn’t long after the first photos appeared in 2008 on the Internet that various wild explanations started being circulated.

According to two biologists, Jens Borum from the University of Copenhagen and Marianne Holmer from the University of Southern Denmark, the fairy rings are not the products of WWII bombs nor are they “landing marks for aliens.”

The fairy rings are also, sadly for many people who like a touch of fantasy in their lives, not a creation of fairies, who were blamed for making similar circles on people’s lawns.

Instead of these explanations, the two biologists say that the fairy rings formed because eelgrass grows in a radiating pattern, as it’s a flowering plant, and it withers and dies in the presence of toxins such as sulfides, which have been known to build up in chalky seabeds like the one off of the coast of Denmark’s Isle of Man. Agricultural pollutants have also been known to cause a build-up of these sulfides.

The biologists explain that “eelgrass plants trap the mud” that is washed away from chalky seabeds, and they also trap the poisonous sulfides. The high concentration of sulfides that is trapped in the midst of the older eelgrass that is less capable of withstanding the effects of the poison gets killed off, leaving only eelgrass that encircles the deposits of sulfide-rich mud.

They state that the fairy circles of eelgrass caused by the build up of sulfides is also found elsewhere in the world’s oceans. Researchers are working to make sure that the eelgrass doesn’t disappear altogether, as other marine life depends upon it to survive and to hide in.

The fairy rings on land have been explained to be the result of a similar outward growth of fungi. However, there are some so-called fairy circles like those in Namibia’s desert grasslands which seem to defy explanations, though some have been advanced, such as that they are caused by gas seeps, resource competition, termites, or possibly ants.

You can read more about the mysterious fairy rings off of the coast of Denmark’s Isle of Man and the explanation by the two biologists that they are caused by concentrations of poisonous sulfides in the LiveScience journal at the link below.

Written by: Douglas Cobb

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