What rules dictate trade in symbiosis? How did the complex relationship between plants and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi evolve? What’s really going on in the world beneath our feet?
On this episode, we talk to Toby Kiers, an evolutionary biologist at VU University Amsterdam, about the massive networks of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) that inhabit the soil beneath our feet. Toby studies the symbiotic relationship between AMF and 80-90% of plant species, through which the tube-shaped fungi cells trade nutrients with plant roots in exchange for carbon. We draw connections between these networks and human networks, and discuss whether economists should be taking notes from these systems.
We also talk about SPUN, a non-profit initiative Toby’s group recently launched with the goal of mapping these fungal networks and advocating for their protection worldwide.
Cover art: Keating Shahmehri