Modelling whole-plant allocation in relation to carbon and nitrogen supply: Coordination versus optimization: Opinion
One of the few integrating theories related to allocation is the hypothesis of optimization. While optimization theory has great heuristic appeal and has been used to describe a range of physiological and ecological phenomena, it has major limitations. Optimization is necessarily based on a definite time integral and an optimal control strategy must be specific to the same patterns exhibited by the driving variables over this same period of time. Optimization tends to employ the use of oversimplifications in order to facilitate analytical solutions to the optimal control strategy, i.e. the mechanism governing the response of plants, which is the critical issue of interest. It is difficult to define objective criteria that can account for the natural variability in plants and testing the quantitative predictions of optimality models is also difficult. Thus, we suggest that optimization theory is too limited for practical use in modelling whole plant allocation. In this paper, we introduce the use of coordination theory as a practical alternative. We develop a simple plant growth allocation model using both coordination theory as a practical alternative. We develop a simple plant growth allocation model using both coordination and optimization approaches and show that coordination theory is easily applied, produces results that are quantitatively similar to optimization, and overcomes the inherent limitations of optimization theory.
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