Water and Vapor Transport in Algal‐Fungal Lichen: Modeling constrained by Laboratory Experiments, an application for Flavoparmelia caperata

Aaron Potkay, Marie-Claire ten Veldhuis, Ying Fan, Caio R.C. Mattos, Gennady Ananyev, Charles Dismukes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
23 Downloads (Pure)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)945-964
Number of pages20
JournalPlant, Cell & Environment
Volume43 (2020)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project https://www.openaccess.nl/en/you-share-we-take-care

Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Symbiosis
  • Flavoparmelia caperata
  • water relations
  • lichen
  • modeling
  • hydraulic limitations


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