Theme ARCHI - Diversity and plasticity of growth forms and of architectural traits


The study of plant communities, biogeography and taxonomy requires the use of morphological and functional traits to characterize competition between organisms or their fitness, or to detect the phylogenetic relationship between species. To be efficient, the selected traits have to be simple and relevant to the problem under study. The major challenge involved in analyzing and understanding the implication of architectural traits for species and community ecology, is determining the level at which plant 3D architecture matters, depending on environmental conditions and growth forms.
Many architectural traits are modulated by environmental conditions (plasticity) and influence the ability of plants to persist, migrate or become invasive. At a very fine scale of analysis, organogenesis and elongation are not simultaneously affected by the environment. Similarly, although cambial reactivation in relation to climate has been well studied, its links to primary ontogenetic processes and to plant 3D architecture are less well known. As architectural analysis accounts for the temporal dimension of plant edification, it is a key tool in the analysis and prediction of the interactions between plant structure and the environment.

Scientific objectives

  •  With respect to diversity and phenotypic variability: to acquire data on the edification of various growth forms, genetic variability of the 3D architecture, ontogenetic variability, the organization of the growth processes within the same architecture;
  •  With respect to plasticity: to describe the global response of various architectures to environmental changes. How the plant prioritizes primary or secondary growth as the environment changes;
  •  With respect to architectural traits: to define the architectural traits according to the level of organization of the plant and to ecological conditions. To adapt this information to the intended field of application;
  •  For the database: to collect information on the 3D architecture of tropical, temperate, and Mediterranean plants.


Research is based on both qualitative and quantitative morphological and architectural descriptions performed in tropical, temperate and Mediterranean regions.

Expected results

  •  Tools for the diagnosis of the architectural development of ornamentals as well as forest trees;
  •  Recommendations for species for planting programs to respond to specific purposes such as carbon storage;
  •  Linking morphological or architectural traits and competition between organisms or their fitness (plant communities and ecological gradients);
  •  Defining growth forms based on architectural characters;
  •  Distribution of the architectural traits in the phylogeny and their contribution to the evolution of plants.

Scientific projects

Acronym Title Duration
IDROPimagerie Intelligente par DRone pour la gestion des écosystèmes forestiers trOPicaux2018 - 2021
PIXIESBordered pits provide a mechanistic understanding of embolism resistance in branch and leaf xylem of tropical rainforest trees from French Guyana2018 - 2019
DIAGARCHI2Outils pour le diagnostic architectural2017 - 2019
DIAGARCHIOutils pour le diagnostic architectural 2015 - 2016

Major publications

All major publications 2019
  • Taugourdeau, O., Caraglio, Y., Sabatier, S., Guédon, Y., 2015. Characterizing the respective importance of ontogeny and environmental constraints in forest tree development using growth phase duration distributions. Ecological Modelling, 300: 61-72. [Editor link]
  • Nicolini E., Beauchêne J., Leudet de la Vallée B., Ruelle J., Mangenet T., Heuret P., 2012. Dating branch growth units in a tropical tree using morphological and anatomical markers: the case of Parkia velutina Benoist (Mimosoideae). Annals of Forest Science, 69 (5): 543-555. [Editor link]
  • Rutishauser E., Barthélémy D., Blanc L., Nicolini E., 2011. Crown fragmentation assessment in tropical trees: method, insights and perspectives. Forest Ecology and Management, 264 (3): 400-407. [Editor link]
  • Charles-Dominique T., Edelin C., Bouchard A., 2010. Architectural strategies of Cornus sericea, a native but invasive shrub of Southern Quebec, Canada, under an open or a closed canopy. Annals of Botany, 105 (2): 205-220. [Editor link]
  • Barthélémy, D., Caraglio, Y., 2007. Plant architecture: A dynamic, multilevel and comprehensive approach to plant form, structure and ontogeny. Annals of Botany, 99 : 375-407. [Editor link]

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