Papers in the Biological Sciences


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Russo SE, Ledder G, Muller EB, Nisbet RM (2022) Dynamic Energy Budget models: fertile ground for understanding resource allocation in plants in a changing world. Conserv Physiol 10(1): coac061; doi:10.1093/conphys/coac061.


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Climate change is having dramatic effects on the diversity and distribution of species. Many of these effects are mediated by how an organism’s physiological patterns of resource allocation translate into fitness through effects on growth, survival and reproduction. Empirically, resource allocation is challenging to measure directly and so has often been approached using mathematical models, such as Dynamic Energy Budget (DEB) models. The fact that all plants require a very similar set of exogenous resources, namely light, water and nutrients, integrates well with the DEB framework in which a small number of variables and processes linked through pathways represent an organism’s state as it changes through time. Most DEB theory has been developed in reference to animals and microorganisms. However, terrestrial vascular plants differ from these organisms in fundamental ways that make resource allocation, and the trade-offs and feedbacks arising from it, particularly fundamental to their life histories, but also challenging to represent using existing DEB theory. Here, we describe key features of the anatomy, morphology, physiology, biochemistry, and ecology of terrestrial vascular plants that should be considered in the development of a generic DEB model for plants. We then describe possible approaches to doing so using existing DEB theory and point out features that may require significant development for DEB theory to accommodate them. We end by presenting a generic DEB model for plants that accounts for many of these key features and describing gaps that would need to be addressed for DEB theory to predict the responses of plants to climate change. DEB models offer a powerful and generalizable framework for modelling resource allocation in terrestrial vascular plants, and our review contributes a framework for expansion and development of DEB theory to address how plants respond to anthropogenic change.

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