Researchers at the University of Houston in the U.S. and the University of Rennes in France are collaborating on the Virtual Prairie project (ViP), to study the effects of management practices on plant competition and genetic structure of the prairie. Their work may eventually contribute to the design of prairies with high agronomical value and the preservation of ecological systems with high biodiversity.
Using BOINC, hundreds of people from around the world have contributed computer time for the 22 million simulations the team completed in July.
In a letter to their “Virtual Prairie Explorers”, the joint Houston-Rennes team reports the completion of phase 1, the modeling of an individual plant.
“Basically we show that for achieving the best growth, there is no single optimum in plants but rather multiple strategies,” the authors write. “This would explain why some natural prairies are composed of species of plants of different growing patterns. Because we deal with very large samples of data, classification techniques and statistical analyses are not easy to manipulate successfully, and this is currently our focus. Nevertheless this work would not have been possible without you.”