Savvy Traders

Fungi in mutualist relationships with plants craftily ply their trade.

Dutch biological ecologist Toby Keirs on natural economics:

“The world’s ecosystems are characterized by an unequal distribution of resources. Trade partnerships between organisms of different species – mutualisms – can help individuals cope with such resource inequality. Mutualistic partnerships are ubiquitous and allow species to colonize diverse environments that fluctuate dramatically in resource availability, from our mammalian guts to deep-sea trenches.

“Trade allows individuals to exchange commodities they can provide at low cost for resources that are otherwise impossible or more difficult to access. Although mutualistic trade can help individuals, the relative benefits to each partner shift according to how resources are distributed. As resources become increasingly patchy in time or space, returns can become more variable, and thus less reliable. Consequently, individuals may be favored to hoard resources – be it for consumption, to retain a competitive edge, or for trading later. This can lead to a decrease in current trade. Alternatively, individuals may be able to exploit local resource variation to dictate favorable terms of trade. These higher returns would lead them to invest more heavily in trade.”

Some fungi grow networked (arbuscular mycorrhizal) connections underground, reaching intimately into plant roots. These fungi pull phosphorus from the soil and trade it for carbon photosynthetically produced by plants.

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi cannot capture carbon themselves, though they need it to live. Instead, these fungi have traded phosphorus for carbon with plants for over 450 million years. Usable phosphorus is perpetually the growth-limiting chemical for plants – precisely what mycorrhizal fungi specialize in.

The fungi now connect with at least 70% of all plant species. Unlike other nutrient-trading fungi that plants let sheath their roots, these fungi are granted access inside plant cells, where they grow “beautiful treelike structures” with plenty of surface area that helps with swapping sustenance, Kiers says.

Fungi hoard phosphorus in those portions of their elaborate filament networks when there’s a glut of it, as plants wouldn’t be likely to trade much carbon for it. Surplus phosphorus is deliberately shipped over the fungal network to areas where it’s scarce and therefore more valuable in trade.

Fungal phosphorous resource planning and trading vividly illustrate how life without intelligence physiology may be as astute as animals with big brains.

The more science you know, the more evident it becomes that matterism is a ruse for dupes and energyism explains what otherwise remains mysterious: life, consciousness, the mind, evolution, and even existence itself. Not that the mystery dissolves; to the contrary. Nature is beyond ken. Nature’s beauty is mentally amplified when understanding its rich underpinnings, as contrasted to the simple-minded view that matterists have.

(Matterism is the philosophical argument that reality may be deciphered merely by examining objects (matter) – that actuality as perceived is an objective reality. Energyism posits that matter is ultimately a feint in service of an entertainment platform which is perceived from nothing more substantial than symbolic constructs which individual minds deceptively convince their subjects are real.)

The natural philosophy Spokes books – that is, those books excluding Spokes 6 & 7 – are essential reading for those who want to comprehend reality as far as it can be fathomed.


Matthew D. Whiteside et al, “Mycorrhizal fungi respond to resource inequality by moving phosphorus from rich to poor patches across networks,” Current Biology (6 June 2019).

Susan Milius, “Some fungi trade phosphorus with plants like savvy stockbrokers,” Science News (10 June 2019).

Susan Milius, “Plants and fungi recognize generous trading partners,” Science News (11 August 2011).