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Numerical methods for the biomechanics of growing trees

Guillon T., Dumont Y., Fourcaud T.. 2012. Computers and Mathematics with Applications, 64 (3) : p. 289-309.

DOI: 10.1016/j.camwa.2012.02.040

Modelling the biomechanics of growing trees is a non-classical problem, as the usual framework of structural mechanics does not take into account the evolution of the domain geometry due to growth processes. Incremental approaches have been used in rod theory to bypass this problem and to model the addition of new material points on an existing deformed structure. However, these approaches are based on the explicit time numerical algorithm of an unknown continuous model, and thus, the accuracy of the numerical results obtained cannot be analysed. A new continuous space-time formulation has been recently proposed to model the biomechanical response of growing rods. The aim of this paper is to discretise the corresponding non-linear system of partial differential equations and the linearised system in order to compare the numerical results with analytical solutions of the linearised problem. The finite element method is implemented to compute the space boundary problem and different time integration schemes are considered to solve the associated initial value problem with a special attention to the forward Euler method which is the analogue of the previously used incremental approach. The numerical results point out that the accuracy of the time integration schemes strongly depends on the value of the parameters. The forward Euler method may present slow convergence property and errors with significant orders of magnitude. Nevertheless, attention must be paid to implicit methods since, for specific values of the parameters and large time steps, they may lead to spurious solutions that may come from numerical instabilities. Hence, the second order Heun's method is an interesting alternative even if it is more time consuming.

Mots-clés : modèle végétal; modèle mathématique; croissance; arbre; anatomie végétale; port de la plante; développement biologique; architecture des arbres; biomodélisation

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