Functional Structural Plant Modelling to return to Finland

Functional Structural Plant Modelling image

Plants have always attrac­ted human interest as evolving struc­tures, Leonardo da Vinci’s stud­ies on trees as an early example. Today not only intel­lec­tual curi­os­ity but also increas­ing pres­sures on veget­a­tion man­age­ment (e.g. food secur­ity, biod­iversity con­ser­va­tion, and con­trol of global green house gas cycles) call for integ­rat­ing all aspects of plants into models.

Leonardo con­sidered that trees fork like river sys­tems. He obvi­ously had an idea about com­pat­ib­il­ity and unity of func­tional and struc­tural char­ac­ter­ist­ics of trees. Since his time plant mor­pho­logy, ana­tomy, physiology and from the late 19th cen­tury plant eco­logy have developed as inde­pend­ent branches of plant sci­ence. From mid 20th cen­tury a whole plant physiology that tries to grasp a plant as one integ­rated entity has emerged. The evol­u­tion of sys­tems approach and com­puter sim­u­la­tion tech­niques have facil­it­ated this development.

An example of the pro­gress made in the 1960’s is the book “Prediction and meas­ure­ment of pho­to­syn­thetic pro­ductiv­ity” (Centre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation, Wageningen, 1970). It deals both with the func­tional and struc­tural aspects of devel­op­ment of plants and plant com­munit­ies. Simulation mod­els that stemmed out from this tra­di­tion have been called process-based mod­els. They com­monly con­sider physiolo­gical pro­cesses and give a detailed account of meta­bol­ism and plant growth in terms of mass vari­ables. The archi­tec­tural struc­ture of plants has usu­ally been described in a less detailed man­ner and in a model-specific way.

Further devel­op­ments, the Lindenmayer sys­tems as the most prom­in­ent example, have led to a pos­sib­il­ity to deal with the struc­tural part of plant devel­op­ment in a sys­tem­atic and con­cise man­ner. In the late 1980s a new plant mod­el­ing paradigm star­ted to develop that attempts to describe expli­citly the struc­tural devel­op­ment of plants. It increases the cap­ab­il­it­ies to study the inter­ac­tion of plant struc­ture and physiology. It allows to approach the prob­lem of plant devel­op­ment as a com­plex inter­ac­tion of envir­on­ment, physiology and devel­op­mental pro­cesses at dif­fer­ent spa­tial and tem­poral scales.

In 1996, a few mod­el­ling groups gathered in Finland to dis­cuss advances in integ­rat­ive plant mod­els. Since this small start the Functional Structural Plant Model (FSPM) meet­ings have expan­ded to cover a great diversity of integ­rat­ive plant mod­els, com­bin­ing plant archi­tec­ture, molecu­lar genet­ics, plant physiology, and envir­on­mental influ­ences with com­puter sci­ence and math­em­at­ics. The next meet­ing will be held 9-14th June 2013 again in Finland (Saariselkä, Finnish Lapland).

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Plant Growth Modelling coverOne of the most recent pub­lic­a­tions in the Annals of Botany is Contributions of leaf pho­to­syn­thetic capa­city, leaf angle and self-shading to the max­im­iz­a­tion of net pho­to­syn­thesis in Acer sac­charum: a mod­el­ling assess­ment by Posada et al. You’ll need a sub­scrip­tion to read this latest research. Our spe­cial issue spe­cific­ally on Functional-Structural Plant Modelling is also sub­scrip­tion only till November. A couple of papers from the issue do have free access, includ­ing this one on the sci­ence behind the iPad app TreeSketch (TreeSketch is free on iTunes). However, last year’s spe­cial issue on Plant Growth Modelling, which has some rel­ev­ant papers, has recently become avail­able with Free Access.

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