HOUSTON, March 7, 2011 Cleaning up pollution, protecting soil from erosion and maintaining species-rich ecosystems are some of the goals of a computational ecology project by a University of Houston (UH) scientist and his team. Published recently in a top journal, the work sheds light on a new method to speed up research in the ecology of plants.
Marc Garbey, a professor of computer science and mathematics at UH, and his fellow researchers describe these findings in a paper titled "Large scale parameter study of an individual-based model of clonal plant with volunteer computing," appearing in a recent issue of Ecological Modelling. The journal covers the use of mathematical models and systems analysis in ecological processes and sustainable resource management.
"Most plant communities outside of forests are dominated by clonal plants, which are basically genetic clones of one another," Garbey said. "These plants are able to colonize space by vegetative reproduction, and the clonal plant communities such as grasslands are of tremendous importance to humanity."
Underscoring their importance, Garbey says that prairies are used for raising cattle and may support biodiversity, as well as play an important role in regulating carbon emissions. These ecological functions will be increasingly important in the future framework of global change. Ecologists wish to better understand how clonal plant arrangements may have an effect on these functions. That's where Garbey's talents as a computational scientist come in.
His team's research looks at the interactions between plants and their dynamics, using a "virtual prairie" that involves trying to understand clonal strategies in complex ecological systems. His main collaborator is his daughter, Cendrine Mony, an assistant professor in ecology at the University of Rennes in France, and they published their first paper together on this topic five years ago. While Mony and her c
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University of Houston