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An overview of agent-based models in plant biology and ecology

March 16, 2020

Agent-based modeling (ABM) has become an established methodology in many areas of biology, ranging from the cellular to the ecological population and community levels. In plant science, two different scales have predominated in their use of ABM. One is the scale of populations and communities, through the modeling of collections of agents representing individual plants, interacting with each other and with the environment. The other is the scale of the individual plant, through the modeling, by functional-structural plant models (FSPMs), of agents representing plant building blocks, or metamers, to describe the development of plant architecture and functions within individual plants. The purpose of this review is to show key results and parallels in ABM for growth, mortality, carbon allocation, competition, and reproduction across the scales from the plant organ to populations and communities on a range of spatial scale to the whole landscape. Several areas of application of ABMs are reviewed, showing that some issues are addressed by both population-level ABMs and FSPMs. Continued increase in the relevance of ABM to environmental science and management will be helped by greater integration of ABMs across these two scales.