Using the canonical modelling approach to simplify the simulation of function in functional–structural plant models


Author for correspondence: Jim Hanan Tel: +61 7 3365 6132 Fax: +61 7 3365 4325 Email:


  • • Functional–structural plant models that include detailed mechanistic representation of underlying physiological processes can be expensive to construct and the resulting models can also be extremely complicated. On the other hand, purely empirical models are not able to simulate plant adaptability and response to different conditions. In this paper, we present an intermediate approach to modelling plant function that can simulate plant response without requiring detailed knowledge of underlying physiology.
  • • Plant function is modelled using a ‘canonical’ modelling approach, which uses compartment models with flux functions of a standard mathematical form, while plant structure is modelled using L-systems.
  • • Two modelling examples are used to demonstrate that canonical modelling can be used in conjunction with L-systems to create functional–structural plant models where function is represented either in an accurate and descriptive way, or in a more mechanistic and explanatory way.
  • • We conclude that canonical modelling provides a useful, flexible and relatively simple approach to modelling plant function at an intermediate level of abstraction.

©New Phytologist (2005)