Simulating the effects of water limitation on plant biomass using a 3D functional-structural plant model of shoot and root driven by soil hydraulics

Braghiere, Renato K.; Gérard, Frédéric; Evers, Jochem B.; Pradal, Christophe; Pagès, Loïc


BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Improved modelling of carbon assimilation and plant growth to low soil moisture requires evaluation of underlying mechanisms in the soil, roots, and shoots. The feedback between plants and their local environment throughout the whole spectrum soil-root-shoot-environment is crucial to accurately describe and evaluate the impact of environmental changes on plant development. This study presents a 3D functional structural plant model, in which shoot and root growth are driven by radiative transfer, photosynthesis, and soil hydrodynamics through different parameterisation schemes relating soil water deficit and carbon assimilation. The new coupled model is used to evaluate the impact of soil moisture availability on plant productivity for two different groups of flowering plants under different spatial configurations. METHODS: In order to address different aspects of plant development due to limited soil water availability, a 3D FSP model including root, shoot, and soil was constructed by linking three different well-stablished models of airborne plant, root architecture, and reactive transport in the soil. Different parameterisation schemes were used in order to integrate photosynthetic rate with root water uptake within the coupled model. The behaviour of the model was assessed on how the growth of two different types of plants, i.e. monocot and dicot, is impacted by soil water deficit under different competitive conditions: isolated (no competition), intra, and interspecific competition. KEY RESULTS: The model proved to be capable of simulating carbon assimilation and plant development under different growing settings including isolated monocots and dicots, intra, and interspecific competition. The model predicted that (1) soil water availability has a larger impact on photosynthesis than on carbon allocation; (2) soil water deficit has an impact on root and shoot biomass production by up to 90 % for monocots and 50 % for dicots; and (3) the improved dicot biomass production in interspecific competition was highly related to root depth and plant transpiration. CONCLUSIONS: An integrated model of 3D shoot architecture and biomass development with a 3D root system representation, including light limitation and water uptake considering soil hydraulics, was presented. Plant-plant competition and regulation on stomatal conductance to drought were able to be predicted by the model. In the cases evaluated here, water limitation impacted plant growth almost 10 times more than the light environment.