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Journal Articles Frontiers in Plant Science Year : 2022

Stronger wind, smaller tree: Testing tree growth plasticity through a modeling approach

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Abstract

Plants exhibit plasticity in response to various external conditions, characterized by changes in physiological and morphological features. Although being non-negligible, compared to the other environmental factors, the effect of wind on plant growth is less extensively studied, either experimentally or computationally. This study aims to propose a modeling approach that can simulate the impact of wind on plant growth, which brings a biomechanical feedback to growth and biomass distribution into a functional–structural plant model (FSPM). Tree reaction to the wind is simulated based on the hypothesis that plants tend to fit in the environment best. This is interpreted as an optimization problem of finding the best growth-regulation sink parameter giving the maximal plant fitness (usually seed weight, but expressed as plant biomass and size). To test this hypothesis in silico, a functional–structural plant model, which simulates both the primary and secondary growth of stems, is coupled with a biomechanical model which computes forces, moments of forces, and breakage location in stems caused by both wind and self-weight increment during plant growth. The Non-dominated Sorting Genetic Algorithm II (NSGA-II) is adopted to maximize the multi-objective function (stem biomass and tree height) by determining the key parameter value controlling the biomass allocation to the secondary growth. The digital trees show considerable phenotypic plasticity under different wind speeds, whose behavior, as an emergent property, is in accordance with experimental results from works of literature: the height and leaf area of individual trees decreased with wind speed, and the diameter at the breast height (DBH) increased at low-speed wind but declined at higher-speed wind. Stronger wind results in a smaller tree. Such response of trees to the wind is realistically simulated, giving a deeper understanding of tree behavior. The result shows that the challenging task of modeling plant plasticity may be solved by optimizing the plant fitness function. Adding a biomechanical model enriches FSPMs and opens a wider application of plant models.
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Dates and versions

hal-03888028 , version 1 (07-12-2022)

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Haoyu Wang, Jing Hua, Mengzhen Kang, Xiujuan Wang, Xing-Rong Fan, et al.. Stronger wind, smaller tree: Testing tree growth plasticity through a modeling approach. Frontiers in Plant Science, 2022, 13, ⟨10.3389/fpls.2022.971690⟩. ⟨hal-03888028⟩
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