Mechanisms of Transport Across Adaptive Biological Networks in a Changing World

March 2012

Global carbon cycles are being reshaped by the increased flux of fossilized carbon into the atmosphere, and because soils are the largest pool of carbon in terrestrial ecosystems, changes to the biodiversity and carbon budgets of soils will have a tremendous influence on the course of global change. The extended networks formed by mycelial fungi are directly responsible for moving carbon through the ground; understanding the transport mechanisms within these networks will be critical to predicting the changing dynamics of carbon flows.

The development, dynamics, and network architectures of fungi strongly resemble the networks of acellular slime molds. These organisms are already used by physicists to model internal flow properties. A comparative study of these network-shaped organisms may result in a global understanding of transport mechanisms in adaptive biological networks.

This exploratory seminar will bring biological expertise on mycelial fungi and acellular slime molds together with physicists and mathematicians skilled in the description of transport networks, to define a new approach for research on the inevitable evolution of adaptive biological networks in an epoch of global change.