Large scale parameter study of an individual-based model of clonal plant with volunteer computing

C. Mony*, M. Garbey, M. Smaoui, M. L. Benot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Understanding clonal strategies (i.e. the ability of plants to reproduce vegetatively) is particularly important to explain species persistence. A clonal individual may be considered as a network of interconnected ramets that colonizes space. Resources in this network can be shared and/or stored. We developed an individual-based model (IBM) to simulate the growth of an individual clonal plant. Typically a realistic IBM requires a large set of parameters to adequately represent the complexity of the clonal plant growth. Simulations in the literature are often limited to small subsets of the parameter space and are guided by the a priori knowledge and with heuristic aims of the researcher. The aim of this paper was to demonstrate the benefit of volunteer computing in computational ecology to systematically browse the parameter space and analyze the simulation results in order to draw rigorous conclusions. To be specific, we simulated clonal plant growth using nine growth rules related to the metabolic process, plant architecture, resource sharing and storage and nineteen input parameters. We chose 2-4 values per input parameter which corresponded to 20 millions of combinations tested through volunteer computing. We used three criteria to evaluate plant performance: plant total resource, ramet production and maximum length of one branch. The 1% top-performing plants were sorted according to these criteria. Plant total resource and ramet production were correlated while considering the top-performing plants. The maximum length of one branch was independent from the other two performance traits. We detected two processes promoting at least one of the plant performance traits: (i) a relatively high metabolic gain (high photosynthetic activity and low production cost for new growth units), a low resource storage and long integration distance for resource sharing; (ii) short spacer lengths and the predominance of elongation of existing branches over branching. Interactive effects between parameter values were demonstrated for more than half of the input parameters. Best performance was reached for plants with slightly different combinations of values for these parameters (i.e. different strategies) rather than a single one (i.e. unique strategy). This modeling approach with volunteer computing enabled us to proceed to large-scale virtual experiments which provided a new quality of insight into ecological processes linked with clonal plant growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)935-946
Number of pages12
JournalEcological Modelling
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 24 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank David Anderson from the Berkeley Space lab for his advise with BOINC, and Keith Crabb, manager of the research computing center and the IT – high performance computing Group at University of Houston for his invaluable help with the ViP project. We thank also the 2200 volunteers worldwide that contributed to the calculations. We thank also P. Hulmes for English corrections. This project benefited from the grant ANR-08-SYSC-012 of the Agence Nationale de la Recherche.


  • Individual-based model
  • Multiparameter method
  • Plant clonal strategies
  • Plant performance
  • Volunteer computing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling


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