Publication Details

Category Text Publication
Reference Category Journals
DOI 10.1093/aob/mcaa016
Licence Keine CC-Lizenz
Title (Primary) Parameter estimation for functional-structural plant models when data are scarce: using multiple patterns for rejecting unsuitable parameter sets
Author Wang, M.; White, N.; Hanan, J.; He, D.; Wang, E.; Cribb, B.; Kriticos, D.J.; Paini, D.; Grimm, V.
Journal Annals of Botany
Year 2020
Department OESA
Volume 126
Issue 4
Page From 559
Page To 570
Language englisch
Keywords pattern-oriented modelling, model calibration, model parameterisation, functional-structural plant modelling, simulation inference, parameter estimation, avocado, Persea americana, equifinality, parameter identifiability, agent-based modelling, individual-based modelling

Background and Aims

Functional-structural plant (FSP) models provide insights into the complex interactions between plant architecture and underlying developmental mechanisms. However, parameter estimation of FSP models remains challenging. We therefore used pattern-oriented modelling (POM) to test whether parameterisation of FSP models can be made more efficient, systematic and powerful. With POM, a set of weak patterns is used to determine uncertain parameters’ values, instead of measuring them in experiments or observations, which often is infeasible.


We used an existing FSP model of avocado (Persea americana, cv. Hass) and tested whether POM parameterisation would converge to an existing manual parameterisation. The model was run for 10,000 parameter sets and model outputs were compared with verification patterns. Each verification pattern served as a filter for rejecting unrealistic parameter sets. The model was then validated by running it with the surviving parameter sets that passed all filters and then comparing their pooled model outputs with additional validation patterns that were not used for parameterisation.

Key Results

POM calibration led to 22 surviving parameter sets. Within these parameter sets, most individual parameters varied over a large range. One of the resulting sets was similar to the manually parameterised set. Using the entire suite of surviving parameter sets, the model successfully predicted all validation patterns. However, two of the surviving parameter sets could not make the model predict all validation patterns.


Our findings suggest strong interactions between model parameters and their corresponding processes, respectively. Using all surviving parameter sets takes these interactions into account fully, thereby improving model performance regarding validation and model output uncertainty. We conclude that POM calibration allows FSP models to be developed in a timely manner without having to rely on field or laboratory experiments, or on cumbersome manual parameterisation. POM also increases the predictive power of FSP models.

Persistent UFZ Identifier
Wang, M., White, N., Hanan, J., He, D., Wang, E., Cribb, B., Kriticos, D.J., Paini, D., Grimm, V. (2020):
Parameter estimation for functional-structural plant models when data are scarce: using multiple patterns for rejecting unsuitable parameter sets
Ann. Bot. 126 (4), 559 - 570