Societal Discussion #8 (Online): Pattern Formation in Seagrasses: Fairy circles under the sea

We cordially invite you to join us at our virtual Centre for Complex Systems Studies on Microsoft Teams to meet other complexity researchers where you won’t miss out any online activities from us as well.

This lecture is a special online discussion organised within the Complexity & Society series.

Due to the current situation which many of our community have found ourselves in, we have decided to adapt our schedule to bring you an updated series of online lectures and discussions.

This Series: Complexity & Society

This academic year at the CCSS we are holding two series of lectures. Under our 'Complexity & Society' series, we host guest lectures from individuals from industry and academia, covering a variety of domains, with the aim of uncovering how complex systems studies is being used (or can be used) to help alleviate societal problems. Please see our upcoming Events for details on our other lecture series.

Speaker Overview

Emilio Hernández-García is CSIC Research Professor member of  IFISC (Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Physics and Complex Systems, joint CSIC-UIB research center). He has held previous positions of Associate Professor at the University of the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Spain) and Research Associate at McGill University (Montreal, Canada). His research interests include: Nonlinear Dynamics, Statistical Physics, Spatiotemporal Chaos, Pattern Formation, Lagrangian Chaos and Transport in Fluids, Applications to Ocean Dynamics, and Biological Modelling. Emilio has recently co-authored a book (alongside Henk Dijkstra) titled Networks in Climate (2019).


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, especially in arid environments. Observations from air and side-scan sonar data have recently revealed analogous pattern-forming phenomena in submerged vegetation in the Mediterranean Sea: landscapes of spots and stripes and isolated ‘fairy circles’ in meadows of seagrasses such as Posidonia oceanica and Cymodocea nodosa, which will be described in this talk. In addition, starting from growth rules of these clonal plants, we have derived a mathematical model for the plant density that reproduces the spatial distributions and explains some previous puzzling observations. Given the keystone character of seagrasses, in particular Posidonia, in coastal Mediterranean ecosystems, the identification of relevant spatial and temporal scales, and the development of quantitative models offers interesting tools for ecosystem state diagnosis and for conservation interventions.

Lecture Details

There will be 45-min lecture from our speaker, followed by an hour-long Question & Answer session hosted by our director Prof. Henk Dijkstra.

To attend the lecture, please click this link at 15:30 on Friday 29th May 2020.

You are free to join the event without a Microsoft Teams account, the link above will direct you to open Teams on the web or download the program, and you can easily join the event as a guest in Teams.

Need more instructions? Check this page or this short video.

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