Algal-fungal symbionts share water, nutrients, and gases via an architecture unique to lichens. Because lichen activity is controlled by moisture dynamics, understanding water transport is prerequisite to understand their fundamental biology. We propose a model of water distributions within foliose lichens governed by laws of fluid motion. Our model differentiates between water stored in symbionts, on extracellular surfaces, and in distinct morphological layers. We parameterize our model with hydraulic properties inverted from laboratory measurements of Flavoparmelia caperata and validate for wetting and drying. We ask: (1) Where is the bottleneck to water transport? (2) How do hydration and dehydration dynamics differ? and (3) What causes these differences? Resistance to vapor flow is concentrated at thallus surfaces and acts as the bottleneck for equilibrium, while internal resistances are small. The model captures hysteresis in hydration and desiccation, which are shown to be controlled by nonlinearities in hydraulic capacitance. Muting existing nonlinearities slowed drying and accelerated wetting, while exaggerating nonlinearities accelerated drying and slowed wetting. The hydraulic nonlinearity of F. caperata is considerable, which may reflect its preference for humid and stable environments. The model establishes the physical foundation for future investigations of transport of water, gas, and sugar between symbionts.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Plant Science
- Flavoparmelia caperata
- hydraulic limitations
- water relations