Individualism in plant populations: Using stochastic differential equations to model individual neighbourhood-dependent plant growth

Qiming Lv, Manuel K. Schneider, Jonathan W. Pitchford

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We study individual plant growth and size hierarchy formation in an experimental population of Arabidopsis thaliana, within an integrated analysis that explicitly accounts for size-dependent growth, size- and space-dependent competition, and environmental stochasticity. It is shown that a Gompertz-type stochastic differential equation (SDE) model, involving asymmetric competition kernels and a stochastic term which decreases with the logarithm of plant weight, efficiently describes individual plant growth, competition, and variability in the studied population. The model is evaluated within a Bayesian framework and compared to its deterministic counterpart, and to several simplified stochastic models, using distributional validation. We show that stochasticity is an important determinant of size hierarchy and that SDE models outperform the deterministic model if and only if structural components of competition (asymmetry; size- and space-dependence) are accounted for. Implications of these results are discussed in the context of plant ecology and in more general modelling situations. Crown Copyright (C) 2008 Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-83
Number of pages10
JournalTheoretical Population Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008


  • neighbourhood competition
  • size hierarchies
  • stochasticity
  • Bayesian statistics
  • Gompertz growth
  • von Bertalanffy growth
  • zones of influence
  • SIZE

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