Fungi embrace fundamental economic theory as they engage in trading

HOUSTON, June 29, 2021 - You might picture Wall Street brokers shouting at each other while trading and discussing market relationships. It seems that fungi quietly perform one of the fundamental functions of a free marketplace.A Rice University economist has discovered that certain networks of fungi engage in a complex economic theory when they trade nutrients for carbon with host plants. This could help to understand carbon storage in soils and aid in mitigating climate change.An online research paper titled "Walrasian equilibrium behaviour in nature" can be found. It will be published in the upcoming issue of Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences. Ted Loch-Temzelides is a Rice professor of economics, and holds the George and Cynthia Mitchell Chairs in Sustainable Development. He examined data from ecological experiments on arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi Networks, which are connected to plants and facilitate trading of carbon for nutrients, through an economic lens.Loch-Temzelides discovered that these relationships are similar to how economists view competitive markets, also known as Walrasian. This paper shows that Walrasian equilibrium (a key concept in economic theory of markets used for making predictions) can be used to help understand trade in this "biological marketplace."Loch-Temzelides stated that organisms like fungi are not self-sacrificing and can display competitive behavior similar to those in markets involving sophisticated human participants.This finding suggests that market participants are given the best resources -- in this instance, plants and fungi.Loch-Temzelides stated that "mycorrhizal networks in the world sequester approximately 5 billion tons of carbon each year." The ability to manipulate the terms of trade to make carbon from host plants less expensive than nutrients could result in additional carbon being stored in soil. This could be a major benefit in combating climate change.Loch-Temzelides believes that future research by economists and biologists can help to better understand these interactions.###You can access the paper online at http:////www. pnas. org/ content/ 118/ 27/ E2020961118This news release is available online at news.rice.eduFollow Rice News and Media Relations @RiceUNews on TwitterPhoto link: https:/// / newsnetwork. rice. edu/news/ files/ 2020/ 07/140814_Economics_Faculty-0425. jpgRice University, photo creditRice University, located in Houston on a 300-acre campus of forested land, is consistently ranked among the top 20 universities in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Rice University is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy, which has highly regarded schools in Architecture, Business, Continuing Education, Engineering, Humanities and Social Sciences. Rice has a student-to-faculty ratio of just below 6-to-1, with 3,978 undergraduates and 3192 graduate students. Rice's residential college system fosters close knit communities and long-lasting friendships. This is just one of the reasons Rice is No. 1. for many race/class interaction, and No. Princeton Review rated 1 for quality life. Kiplinger's Personal Finance also rates Rice as the best value of private universities.