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Reshaping plant biology: Qualitative and quantitative descriptors for plant morphology

Balduzzi M., Binder B.M., Bucksch A., Chang C., Hong L., Lyer-Pascuzzi A., Pradal C., Sparks E.E.. 2017. Frontiers in Plant Science, 8 : 15 p..

DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2017.00117

An emerging challenge in plant biology is to develop qualitative and quantitative measures to describe the appearance of plants through the integration of mathematics and biology. A major hurdle in developing these metrics is finding common terminology across fields. In this review, we define approaches for analyzing plant geometry, topology, and shape, and provide examples for how these terms have been and can be applied to plants. In leaf morphological quantifications both geometry and shape have been used to gain insight into leaf function and evolution. For the analysis of cell growth and expansion, we highlight the utility of geometric descriptors for understanding sepal and hypocotyl development. For branched structures, we describe how topology has been applied to quantify root system architecture to lend insight into root function. Lastly, we discuss the importance of using morphological descriptors in ecology to assess how communities interact, function, and respond within different environments. This review aims to provide a basic description of the mathematical principles underlying morphological quantifications.

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