Dr. Stephan Getzin


Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ

Department of Ecological Modelling

Permoserstr. 15
04318 Leipzig


Stephan Getzin

Research Interests

  • Remotely Sensed Pattern Analysis
  • Spatial Statistics
  • Application of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)
  • Forest Ecology
  • Dryland Research
  • Self-Organization of Vegetation

Google Scholar Profile

Current Research Project

I am currently undertaking the project Investigating the spatial mechanisms of self-organized vegetation gaps in arid Australia which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The project is based at my former working place - the University of Göttingen. In this research, I am studying in detail the Australian fairy circles, employing methods such as high-resolution drone imagery (RGB, multi-spectral, thermal, 3D-laser scanning), spatially-explicit pattern analysis, soil excavations, manipulative experiments or the daily recording of weather and soil data.

New DFG-funded research project (Feb 2020 - Jan 2023) in Namibia: "Origin and dynamics of Namibian fairy circles assessed in-situ and by high-resolution spatio-temporal analysis"

Research in the Media

CNN Headline Fairy Circles

The fairy circles of Namibia form a spectacular pattern in the arid grasslands along the Namib Desert. Our study published as “Editor’s choice” in Ecography appeared in several media such as CNN or BBC and the new PNAS paper on Australian fairy circles appeared in many more media (Altmetric Score). The actual scientific task lies in decoding “mysterious” self-organized systems by means of sophisticated pattern- and process-based analysis. From a scientific perspective, the fairy circles are a model system whose underlying mechanisms and processes are not easy to detect but whose mystery can be solved with a modern toolbox of analytical techniques.

DRONES Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones are increasingly used for mapping natural habitats. We have started working with drones in 2008, at a time when the technology was not yet fully reliable. The project was covered in several media such as NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and had a press release at the University of Göttingen.

Since 2014 we have a new high-tech drone with several sensors such as a LiDAR for 3D-mapping, a multi-spectral camera, a thermal and a photo camera (left image). The central animated image shows a tree plantation of a biodiversity experiment. The 3D-LiDAR images represent different echos of the laser pulse. The lower image shows temperature isotherms of an open habitat with water ponds and bushes. This drone was recently introduced in an online article in SPEKTRUM. Also a media production made for a new ARTE documentary ("Die Neuvermessung der Welt") filmed the flight mission of our drone during mappings of forest and open habitat.


aus Getzin, S., Yizhaq, H., Cramer, M.D. & Tschinkel, W.R. (2019) Contrasting global patterns of spatially periodic fairy circles and regular insect nests in drylands. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 124, 3327-3342. (view Open Access article and PDF here)
namib Getzin, S. & Yizhaq, H. (2019) Unusual Namibian fairy circle patterns in heterogeneous and atypical environments. Journal of Arid Environments, 164, 85-89.
aus Getzin, S., Yizhaq, H., Munoz-Rojas, M., Wiegand, K. & Erickson, T. E. (2019) A multi-scale study of Australian fairy circles using soil excavations and drone-based image analysis. Ecosphere, 10(2), e02620.
wirong Chanthorn, W., Wiegand, T., Getzin, S., Brockelman, W.Y. & Nathalang, A. (2018) Spatial patterns of local species richness reveal importance of frugivores for tropical forest diversity. Journal of Ecology, 106, 925 - 935.
Kilibild Getzin, S., Fischer, R., Knapp, N. & Huth, A. (2017) Using airborne LiDAR to assess spatial heterogeneity in forest structure on Mount Kilimanjaro. Landscape Ecology, 32, 1881-1894.
L2_gap1_klein Getzin, S., Yizhaq, H., Bell, B., Erickson, T.E., Postle, A.C., Katra, I., Tzuk, O., Zelnik, Y.R., Wiegand, K., Wiegand, T. & Meron, E. (2016) REPLY TO WALSH ET AL.: Hexagonal patterns of Australian fairy circles develop without correlation to termitaria. PNAS, 113, E5368–E5369.
Howe_small Getzin, S., Yizhaq, H., Bell, B., Erickson, T.E., Postle, A.C., Katra, I., Tzuk, O., Zelnik, Y.R., Wiegand, K., Wiegand, T. & Meron, E. (2016) Discovery of fairy circles in Australia supports self-organization theory. PNAS, 113, 3551–3556.
Spatial_Review Velázquez, E., Martínez, I., Getzin, S., Moloney, K.A. & Wiegand, T. (2016) An evaluation of the state of spatial point pattern analysis in ecology. Ecography, 39, 1042-1055.
FC_single_klein Getzin, S., Wiegand, K., Wiegand, T., Yizhaq, H., von Hardenberg, J. & Meron, E. (2015) Clarifying misunderstandings regarding vegetation self-organization and spatial patterns of fairy circles in Namibia: a response to recent termite hypotheses. Ecological Entomology, 40, 669-675.
Fairy Circles Getzin, S., Wiegand, K., Wiegand, T., Yizhaq, H., von Hardenberg, J. & Meron, E. (2015) Adopting a spatially explicit perspective to study the mysterious fairy circles of Namibia. Ecography, 38, 1-11.
Sri_Lanka3_klein Punchi-Manage, R., Wiegand, T., Wiegand, K., Getzin, S., Huth, A., Gunatilleke, C.V.S. & Gunatilleke, I.A.U.N. (2015) Neighborhood diversity of large trees shows independent species patterns in a mixed dipterocarp forest in Sri Lanka. Ecology, 96, 1823–1834.
Drohne Getzin, S., Nuske, R.S. & Wiegand, K. (2014) Using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to quantify spatial gap patterns in forests. Remote Sensing, 6, 6988-7004.
BCI Getzin, S., Wiegand, T. & Hubbell, S.P. (2014) Stochastically driven adult-recruit associations of tree species on Barro Colorado Island. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 281, 20140922.
Vietnam2_klein Nguyen, H., Wiegand, K. & Getzin, S. (2014b) Spatial patterns and demographics of Streblus macrophyllus trees in a tropical evergreen forest, Vietnam. Journal of Tropical Forest Science, 26, 309–319.
Vietnam Nguyen, H., Wiegand, K. & Getzin, S. (2014a) Spatial distributions of tropical tree species in northern Vietnam under environmentally variable site conditions. Journal of Forestry Research, 25, 257-268.
Sinharaja Punchi-Manage, R., Wiegand, T., Wiegand, K., Getzin, S., Gunatilleke, C.V.S. & Gunatilleke, I.A.U.N. (2014). Effect of spatial processes and topography on structuring species assemblages in a Sri Lankan dipterocarp forest. Ecology, 95, 376-386.
Gutianshan Zhu, Y., Getzin, S., Wiegand, T., Ren, H. & Ma, K. (2013) The relative importance of Janzen-Connell effects in influencing the spatial patterns at the Gutianshan subtropical forest. PLoS ONE, 8, e74560.
Gossner, M.M., Getzin, S., Lange, M., Pašalic, E., Türke, M., Wiegand, K., & Weisser, W.W. (2013) The importance of heterogeneity revisited from a multiscale and multitaxa approach. Biological Conservation, 166, 212-220.
Walter Ward, D., Wiegand, K., Getzin, S. (2013) Walter's two-layer hypothesis revisited: back to the roots! Oecologia, 172, 617-630.

Sinharaja Punchi-Manage, R., Getzin, S., Wiegand, T., Kanagaraj, R., Gunatilleke, C.V.S., Gunatilleke, I.A.U N., Wiegand, K. & Huth, A. (2013) Effects of topography on structuring local species assemblages in a Sri Lankan mixed dipterocarp forest. Journal of Ecology, 101, 149-160.

ProceedingsB Wiegand, T., Huth, A., Getzin, S., Wang, X., Hao, Z., Gunatilleke, C.V.S. & Gunatilleke, I.A.U N. (2012) Testing the independent species' arrangement assertion made by theories of stochastic geometry of biodiversity. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 279, 3312-3320.

cover_meeGetzin, S., Wiegand, K. & Schoening, I. (2012) Assessing biodiversity in forests using very high-resolution images and unmanned aerial vehicles. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 3, 397-404.

Lan_et_al Lan, G., Getzin, S., Wiegand, T., Hu, Y., Xie, G., Zhu, H. & Cao, M. (2012) Spatial distribution and interspecific associations of tree species in a tropical seasonal rain forest of China. PLoS ONE, 7, e46074.

Getzin, S. , Worbes, M., Wiegand, T. & Wiegand, K. (2011) Size dominance regulates tree spacing more than competition within height classes in tropical Cameroon. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 27, 93-102.

Heterogeneity_OeM_GS1Getzin, S. , Wiegand, T., Wiegand, K. & He, F. (2008) Heterogeneity influences spatial patterns and demographics in forest stands. Journal of Ecology, 96, 807-820.

Dronfield_Ranch_RS_OeM_GS6Moustakas, A., Wiegand, K., Getzin, S. , Ward, D., Meyer, K.M., Guenther, M. & Mueller, K.-H. (2008) Spacing patterns of an Acacia tree in the Kalahari over a 61-year period: how clumped becomes regular and vice versa. Acta Oecologica, 33, 355-364.

Crown_Areas_OeM_GS4Getzin, S. , Wiegand, K., Schumacher, J. & Gougeon, F.A. (2008) Scale-dependent competition at the stand level assessed from crown areas. Forest Ecology and Management, 255, 2478-2485.

Asymmetric_growth_OeM_GS2Getzin, S. & Wiegand, K. (2007) Asymmetric tree growth at the stand level: Random crown patterns and the response to slope. Forest Ecology and Management, 242, 165-174.

Fire_OeM_GS8Getzin, S. (2007) Structural Fire Effects in the World's Savannas. A Synthesis for Biodiversity and Land-Use Managers. VDM Verlag, Saarbruecken. Book-ISBN: 978-3-8364-3664-9

Chronopattern_OeM_GS3Getzin, S. , Dean, C., He, F., Trofymow, J.A., Wiegand, K. & Wiegand, T. (2006) Spatial patterns and competition of tree species in a Douglas-fir chronosequence on Vancouver Island. Ecography, 29, 671-682.

Dis_Crowns_OeM_GS5Getzin, S. (2006) Analysis of hierarchical structures in forest stands using detailed spatial statistics. Ph.D. thesis

Waterhole_OeM_GS9Getzin, S. (2005) The suitability of the degradation gradient method in arid Namibia. African Journal of Ecology, 43, 340-351.

Fairy1_OeM_GS7 Becker, T. & Getzin, S. (2000) The fairy circles of Kaokoland (North-West-Namibia) - origin, distribution, and characteristics. Basic and Applied Ecology, 1, 149-159.